A Texas oil company and federal officials in the state of Idaho may be coming to the end of their fight over a natural gas field located in Payette County. The federal government offered five parcels of this land up for lease by April of 2015. This will amount to 6,350 acres. The Bureau of Land Management opened up a 30-day public comment period regarding the lease, so those who may have had questions and issues with the proposal could state their case.
Earlier, a Texas company called Alta Mesa opposed the idea because they thought that the government, which is basically auctioning off the land although they call it “competitive leasing,” would set a bad precedent for the field. The recently changed their mind though and said that they would not request the lands that are part of the BLM be exclude from drilling. Alta Mesa is working on developing other areas of southwest Idaho currently, though these are private and not public lands.
One of the fears stems from the fact that the lands in question, which are part of the BLM, would have the potential to bring in royalties to the state and federal government. The BLM is also the agency responsible for conducting the environmental assessment on the land. While they found there was “no significant impact with the leasing,” there could be questions about the veracity of this and future reports. Some may worry that the officials will like the idea of the added revenue from royalties enough that they may overlook some issues with environmental assessments.
The Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission was the body responsible for mediating the battle between Alta Mesa and the BLM. They sided with the BLM, and in a 3-2 vote rejected the request from Alta Mesa to remove 187 acres of land from the drilling unit. They gave the BLM the full authority to determine what happens to the mineral rights in the state.
It is still very early, and the land is not up for lease yet, but it’s certain that many companies and individuals will be watching closely to see how everything unfolds. It does have the potential to be beneficial for those companies that lease the land, as well as the BLM and the state. If successful in this area, there’s a good chance that similar deals will happen in the future.
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