Three Lone Democrats Fight for Idahoans’ Property Rights While GOP Caves to Big Oil

(EnviroNews Idaho) — Boise, Idaho — Private property rights for Idaho landowners have been ceded by the Republican party running the legislature. An example of this recently unfolded during 2015’s ongoing legislative session in Boise, Idaho, as lawmakers consider new rules for the oil and gas industry.

One hot-button issue is the approval by both the Senate Resources and Environment Committee and House Resources and Conservation Committee of new rules developed this summer involving forced integration, a.k.a. “forced pooling” of mineral rights holders. The Idaho Department of Lands supports the rules changes.

Under the proposed rules, “integration” could take place when 55 percent of the mineral rights holders in a 640-acre drilling unit petition the Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to approve such a request. The non-consenting parties would then be forced into the royalty payout pool, minus a sizable 300 percent penalty whether they want oil and gas development around on, around or under their property or not.

Of course, forcing mineral rights holders into drilling activity could also adversely impact deeds and mortgages as well.

Standard language in many mortgages includes clauses forbidding such activity without consent of the lender, and states that doing so places borrowers at risk of technical default on their mortgage.

On January 27, the House Resources and Conservation Committee advanced several oil and gas bills to the full House for consideration, including the new rules for integration.

Despite concerns over property rights that pointed out that the minority 45 percent could be disenfranchised by the majority 55 percent, no republican lawmakers voted to hold the rules in committee.

According to committee minutes, Representative Mat Erpelding stated that governments should protect the rights of both the minority and majority, and that the 55 percent majority requirement for integration is too low and fails to protect property rights.

He provided an example of western states, such as Wyoming and New Mexico, that maintain a 75% majority for pooling or integration, the minutes state.

Erpelding offered the committee’s sole dissenting vote after his motion to reject the integration portion of the rule failed. A similar unfolding of events occurred when the Senate Resources and Environment Committee took up the bill on February 2, 2015. Again, the only dissenting votes were given by two democrats — Senators Michelle Stennett and Cherie Buckner-Webb.

In her recent weekly newsletter, released February 8, 2015, Stennett explained why she voted against the rule. “I have several concerns about these rules, including the siting of gas processors (a chemical geyser of sorts) a mere 300 feet from occupied structures or water wells (and only 50 feet from highways),” states the newsletter.

Integration could also, “adversely impact private property rights and mortgages,” Stennett wrote.

The other oil and gas measures sailing through the House and Senate committees address hydrocarbon production under state-owned riverbeds, requiring well production records to be publicly available after six-months and maintaining drilling permit fees — although a clause which would have reduced such fees in 2017 was eliminated.

The collection of bills passed by their respective committees will now head to the full House and Senate chambers for consideration where they will likely receive overwhelming support.

Three Lone Democrats Fight for Idahoans’ Property Rights While GOP Caves to Big Oil