Using Wyoming's approach as a model, a rarely convened panel in Idaho Tuesday adopted some temporary rules for hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for natural gas. The state's Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, consisting of Idaho's five statewide elected officials, including its governor, unanimously took its action that was prompted by natural gas drilling in a single county, Payette.

An attempt to include a ban on the use of alleged cancer-causing chemicals was rejected by the commission.

The temporary guidelines allow the exploration and production (E&P) company involved here to drill more wells in less space. Previously the restriction was one well/640 acres. The new rules permit one well/160 acres.

Meeting for the second time this month after an absence of 18 years, the oil/gas panel was convened to focus on the proposed fracking activity of Bridge Resources, which has drilled 11 wells in the New Plymouth, ID, area, including four that turned up dry and three that have been labeled successful. The E&P company, which has focused on the west Idaho Basin, has plans for three other drilling sites.

Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter and the other four statewide elected officials, meeting as part of the rarely convened oil/gas panel, established temporary rules governing Bridge's gas drilling operation and its plan to use hydraulic fracturing to tap western Idaho energy deposits. The officials agreed that the rules "adequately safeguard the region's groundwater."

The new rules allow four wells/square mile, more than the standard of just a single well; and set parameters for fracking in which pressurized liquids are applied to trigger the flow of natural gas. Idaho officials were told that the process elsewhere has been blamed for water contamination, but Bridge defended its proposal as modest compared to what's happening in different types of gas deposits.

"The Idaho Conservation League failed to win support for an amendment that would have forbidden the use of cancer-causing liquids," said a spokesperson for the commission who noted that the panel members accepted the fact that the state rules in this area.

Bridge told the government officials it plans mini-fracking four wells this summer, and it hopes to drill a total of 60 new wells in the state. The company is moving closer to putting its gas wells into production, a spokesperson for the commission said.

Idaho's Lands Department, of which the oil/gas commission is a part, will work with other state departments -- dealing with water resources and environmental quality -- along with local government in New Plymouth and Payette County to come up with permanent new rules.