Friday, February 3, 2012

Washington County Gas Meeting Includes Facts, Myths and Flared Tempers

Posted By on Fri, Feb 3, 2012 at 10:52 AM

The "reset" button was pushed last night as the effort to poke more holes in the ground to draw natural gas from Idaho's core was brought to Washington County, the new frontier for gas exploration companies. But before the evening was out, controversy reared its head once more.

A team of lawmakers, state geologists and water experts sat before a packed house in Weiser to discuss facts and, in their words, "debunk myths" about natural gas development. The session was hosted by the region's Idaho legislative delegation, Republicans Sen. Monty Pearce, Rep. Judy Boyle and House Speaker Lawerence Denney (but Denney was a no-show).

Much of the two hour-plus meeting was technical, with representatives from the departments of Environmental Quality, Lands and Water Resources detailing proposed oversight of the burgeoning industry.

But deep into the meeting, things took a turn when some Washington County citizens took exception to a proposal that would grant more authority to the state on siting and operational issues vs. county or city control.

"God knows we need the gas industry," said Mary Sue Roach. "But as a private citizen, this statute has taken away my rights."

Another citizen expressed his frustration, calling the agreement ironed out between the Idaho Petroleum Council and the Idaho Association of Counties "crap."

Things got a bit testy before Eric Wilson from the Department of Lands took the microphone.

"Let's try to be civil," said Wilson.

Pearce quickly took the microphone to calm the gathering down.

"None of this has happened yet," said Pearce. "My responsibility is to represent the people. Accusing us of catering to the oil-and-gas industry is not fair."

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