Resources chair pushes through oil and gas legislation that may make his oil and gas leases valuable-

Monty J. Pearce

Part of Idaho is like so many other places in America where a tsunami of fracking is about to hit.  Five years ago this seemed very unlikely. Idaho has always been regarded as an unlikely place for oil and gas. Except for some hard-to-get-at mountain country along the state’s border with Wyoming the potential has been regarded as low. None of the Eastern Idaho gas wells drilled over the years has ever gone into production.  Those concerned with Idaho’s wildlife were pleased with each dry well.

Now, however, on the other side of the state, lands suitable for the controversial new technique of fracking have been found. There is a tremendous amount of interest by some hoping to get rich, but by  others who believe the track record of polluted, even flammable water, will soon be an Idaho problem. Payette and Gem counties near the Idaho/Oregon border want strict safety and pollution standards on frackers.

After meeting county opposition to their plans, the frackers, once again from Canada, quickly ran to Governor Otter, champion of state rights against the federal government. The frackers figured right that the governor and the legislature were much less concerned about local government rights or those of local property owners, except, of course, those of oil or gas leaseholders. Legislation written by the Idaho Petroleum Council that prohibited counties from saying “no” to fracking was soon moving in the Idaho legislature, through State Senator Monty Pearce’s key committee.

On its way to passage, 22 quick votes to speed up fracking and set aside objections, committee chair and legislation supporter Pearce was suddenly reminded that he owned oil and gas leases in the area of “play.” He would benefit perhaps handsomely if they fracked under his land and found oil or gas. When the voting was almost over, attention was called to Pearce’s leases. He said he had forgotten he even owned them! Minority Democrats, however, asked the President pro tem of the Senate to yank Pearce’s Resources Committee chairmanship and ban him (recuse himself) from voting on oil and gas issues.

Rocky Barker has one of many articles on the failure of the committee chair to recuse himself or even reveal he had leases. “Idaho Senate Democrats ask for ethics investigation of Pearce over oil and gas conflict.” By Rocky Baker. Idaho Statesman. Rick Johnson, executive director of the Idaho Conservation League, also has an article and a history of the goings on of the last year. Fracking and Truth Decay. Posted by Rick Johnson on Mar 16, 2012.

On March 19, the first meeting of panel will be held to determine if under Idaho rules a possible conflict of interest has taken place. Democratic State Senator of Pocatello, Diane Bilyeu told the Idaho State Journal that “I would never introduce a bill that would line my pockets.” She said the disclosure that he held leases should have taken place in his committee, not on the final vote on the floor. Democrats have spent much of 2012 session of the legislature trying to get stronger financial discloure and ending the “revolving” door of being in the legislature and then becoming a lobbyist and vice versa.

Back to fracking, in principle it sounds like a safe way of getting to vast new reserves of hydrocarbon-laden rock (rock with oil and gas locked in it).  Drill down very deep, below any aquifers and inject a proprietary mix of chemicals so to chemically or physically loosen the gas or oil. Then pump oil or gas out. What could go wrong?  The chemicals might be toxic, but they are left deep (thousands of feet underground).

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Update: Somber tone reigns as ethics hearings begin on Idaho Sen. Pearce. By Dan Popkey. Idaho Statesman.
It is amazing,  This state senator’s brother is the area coordinator for the John Birch Society . . . “In the row in front of Pearce was his brother, Dale, area coordinator for the John Birch Society. . . ,  It makes me feel very somber too.

Well things have gone wrong in a number of places. Two big troubles seem to be that while the target rock strata might be very deep underground where the injection well is located, miles away they might come close to the surface. Consult any geology textbook and you will find hundreds of pages of diagrams of folded, warped, twisted, rock strata.  Perhaps even more important, the fracking chemicals don’t begin their existence deep in the earth. Of course, they have to begin at the surface. It appears that in many cases mistakes have been made right there, and the chemicals have begun to squirt out while the drill is close to the surface near or right in the middle of a drinking or agricultural water aquifer.

Once an aquifer is polluted, it stays that way. In terms of a human lifetime, it might as well be forever. Polluted aquifers could be poisoning the remaining wildlife long after we have killed ourselves off.

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3/19/12. Update to the story. Somber tone reigns as ethics hearings begin on Idaho Sen. Pearce. By Dan Popkey. Idaho Statesman.

What struck me was this tidbit. In the row in front of Pearce was his brother, Dale, area coordinator for the John Birch Society [boldface added].

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is President of the Western Watersheds Project.

5 Responses to Revealed! Key legislative backer of oil industry fracking in Idaho holds oil and gas leases that could be become lucrative. (Updated)

  1. avatar Doryfun says:

    “After meeting county opposition to their plans, the frackers, once again from Canada, quickly ran to Governor Otter, champion of state rights against the federal government. The frackers figured right that the governor and the legislature were much less concerned about local government rights or those of local property owners, except, of course, those of oil or gas leaseholders. Legislation written by the Idaho Petroleum Council that prohibited counties from saying “no” to fracking was soon moving in the Idaho legislature, through State Senator Monty Pearce’s key committee.”

    How much more evidence do Americans need to realize how much high risk there is to potential conatminated water supplies, that comes with Fracting? Perhpas, if permission is granted for Fracting, then a clause should be added that requires all Fracters drink water from the area they are fracting in.

    How can so many people support leaders who are willing to pursue natural resources, despite mounting evidence that shows how costly extractions will be? A friend recently told me Otter was suffering from the first stages of Alzheimers, that cohorts were trying to keep under wraps – (probably a conspiracy theory rumor, and I would not wish that on anyone). But I don’t think Otter needs any kind of excuse for how his thinking is always biased towards capitism of only the industrial kind.

    Why would anyone trust a leader who leads with a “the only good wolf, is a dead wolf” non-conservation mentality, to protect their own drinking water?

  2. avatar Daniel Berg says:

    Idaho politics must really be something…..Even the comment sections on these articles are much more colorful than I’m used to seeing at the state level in Washington.

    From the comment section:

    “He has nothing to worry about. They never unseated
    McGee and he was Drunken Car thief.”

    Truly, it’s not funny, but you can’t help cracking a smile when you read about the antics pulled off by some Idaho legislators. I run into this stuff time and time again!

  3. avatar Ken Cole says:

    Larry Grant has a decent editorial today about the massive string of Republican ethical lapses we have seen in the last year in Idaho.

    http://www.idahopress.com/opinion/bestread/republican-ethical-lapses-in-statehouse-just-don-t-stop/article_42b3dcea-7233-11e1-90a4-0019bb2963f4.html?mode=jqm

    • avatar Doryfun says:

      Good article Ken,

      I agree with Grants last statement for the most likely way to get a needed change. Throw the bums out. Romney likes to fire people, maybe he could help.

    • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

      Here is another one on Monty Pearce. This is by Kevin Richert.

      I would like to think all these scandals are reaching a tipping point, but this legislature just keeps getting worse. Transparency: What’s so hard to understand? By Kevin Richert. Idaho Statesman.

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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