The Idaho Association of Counties (IAC) and the Idaho Petroleum Council (IPC) have struck an agreement on guidelines that would allow counties more control over natural gas exploration operations.

“Local siting and operational issues are important to our members and to the people of Idaho,” said IAC Executive Director Dan Chadwick. “This consensus legislation promises counties and their residents that their unique insight will be an important part of our state’s growing natural gas industry.”

State officials have begun working on new regulations for the oil and gas industry after natural gas discoveries were made in 2010 in Payette County, which is south of Washington County.

Bridge Resources, based in Colorado, already has drilled 11 natural gas wells in Payette County, seven of which proved successful. Arkansas-based Snake River Oil & Gas Co., which is exploring for gas in Idaho, helped develop the compromise legislation after Washington County officials proposed an ordinance that would regulate size limits, require bonds and insurance policies, among other items.

Snake River CEO Richard Brown reiterated the company’s commitment to the fledgling energy industry in the state, and said the agreement provides assurances to citizens and certain businesses that can serve as a model for other states to follow.

The proposed legislation would require the state to notify local governments when a producer applies for an exploration permit in a particular county. Local government then would be able to regulate construction and operation of the processing stations, pipelines and other infrastructure required for exploration and production (E&P).

“The agreement is an example of what happens when reasonable people have a chance to sit down and forge compromise,” said IPC Executive Director Suzanne Budge.

Last year the Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission also adopted temporary rules for hydraulic fracturing (fracking). The commission consists of five statewide elected officials including the governor. The commission rejected an attempt to include a ban on using alleged cancer-causing chemicals.

In addition, the Idaho House Resources and Conservation Committee recently voted 16-1 in favor of new E&P rules, which were hammered out with industry and stakeholder involvement.

There is widespread support for the regulations, with favorable input from industry, environmentalists, local government and citizens in the two counties where leasing and drilling now are ongoing. However, state Rep. Dick Harwood (R-St. Maries) voted against the measure, alleging that the state was “overreaching.”

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