BOISE, Idaho – State regulators today approved new regulations on natural gas extraction as energy developers seek to make Idaho the first place in the Northwest where a controversial extraction method called “fracking” occurs.
The Idaho Oil and Gas Commission heard about an hour of testimony from people for and against hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
Several people raised concerns over who would pay for cleanup if an energy company were to go bankrupt or leave the state without notice. The new regulations would require a company to bond at $10,000 per site and add an additional dollar for every foot drilled.
The new regulations also prohibit companies from reusing fracking fluid — typically freshwater with chemical additives.
Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, who typically presides over the Oil and Gas Commission, was absent from today’s meeting. Lt. Governor Brad Little took his place on the commission but recused himself from voting because of a conflict of interest. The lieutenant governor said he had notified the Secretary of State that he owned land that is in negotiation with a natural gas company.
Commissioner Tom Luna said he approved the regulations because they allow Idaho to benefit from the economic activity created by natural-gas exploration and production. He cited Wyoming’s economic successes from gas drilling as a factor behind his support of the new regulations.
Luna, who is also the Idaho Superintendent of Education, pointed to Wyoming’s ability to pay teachers more than Idaho does, and attributed this to the tax revenues flowing into the neighboring state because of the natural gas industry. Luna told the commission that he would seek to direct some of the money the state would receive to benefit education in Idaho.
The commission’s approval for the gas-drilling rules clears the way for the 2012 Idaho Legislature to make a final decision. The regulations wouldn’t go into effect until after the Legislature adjourns — which typically occurs in the spring.
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