The Idaho Department of Lands is working on a legislative proposal that would separate the Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission from the state Land Board.
The commission regulates the exploration, drilling, and production of oil and gas resources on private, state and federal land in Idaho. It currently is headed by Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, and the other four constitutional officers that make up the Land Board.
These people, by their own admission knew little about oil and gas. The commissions in other states are made up of people who know the industry.
The Otter administration has been talking about this for a couple of years. But it became public when Department of Lands staff presented this the proposal to the Energy, Environment, and Technology Interim Legislative Commission Oct. 18 in Boise.
The commission would have five members appointed by the Governor and approved by the Senate. It would have one member knowledgeable in oil and gas; one member knowledgeable in geology; one member knowledgeable in water; one private land or mineral owner in an area with oil and gas activity; and one private land owner without mineral rights.
They would serve four-year terms, initially staggered and shortened. The proposal says the Lands director may act as commission secretary or the commission may appoint a replacement. It also could hire its own staff or contract with Lands to continue to act as its administrative arm.
The nominating process is still up in the air.
The proposal has support both from the industry and environmental side. It is based on how other states do it.
“As always, the devil is in the details,” said Suzanne Budge, executive director of the Idaho Petroleum Council.
The current system is full of conflicts of interest, said Justin Hayes, Idaho Conservation League program director. The Land Board often owns the land and the mineral rights on a oil and gas drilling parcel, its top priority is to maximize return to the state for schools and other trustees, it writes the rules and is the final arbiter of the rules.
“That’s a four-way conflict,” Hayes said.