(EnviroNews Idaho) — Boise, ID — An oil and gas lease auction on Oct. 15, 2014 by the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) was delayed for about 30 minutes as protesters went back and forth with state officials concerning their right to silently protest the event.
Reporters at local EnviroNews Idaho have witnessed similar silent protests in the past conducted by Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT) and Idaho Residents Against Gas Extraction (IRAGE) during IDL’s oil and gas tract auctions without incident.
Previous auctions have been held at the IDL’s office in Boise but this oil and gas tract sale was hosted by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, due to it’s larger conference room.
According to video taken by WIRT and given to EnviroNews, activists who were confined to a “protest area” were told their signs were disruptive to the auction and would have to be taken outside. They were also threatened by an Idaho Fish and Game law enforcement officer that if they did not comply, they would be subject to arrest.
Although the small group of protesters was warned that the police were on their way, upon arrival Sergeant Lori Sperry of the Boise Police Department, instead of arresting the activists, successfully helped them negotiate their right to remain onsite and respectfully dissent the auction.
In the end, activists were allowed to stand in the back of the room with their signs in what was originally designated the “protest area”, and were also reinstated to quietly record video from the front of the meeting room where they could see participants.
“It’s yet another example of the state of Idaho’s disregard of process, especially when it comes to issues like fracking,” said Shavone Hasse, of Boise, one of three protesters in attendance.
During a phone interview Thursday, Hasse said she protested the auction in honor of her mother Alma Hasse, co-founder IRAGE who was arrested October 9 for trespass, among other charges, during a public meeting of the Payette County Planning and Zoning Commission. The Commission was considering an application by Alta Mesa Idaho to expand a gas processing facility in the county.
“Her arrest was definitely a catalyst for my being there,” she said. “My mom would have been at the (auction) if not for her arrest.”
Alta Mesa (AM Idaho), Idaho’s biggest oil and gas player at present, was also at the auction and successfully purchased leases on three tracts for $73,229.
Another company, Trendwell West, Inc., was awarded eight tracts for $190,000.
In total, IDL auctioned oil and gas leases for 5,239 acres of state-owned lands and minerals and the average bid was about $46 per acre. The highest bid was for $105 per acre for about 638 acres in Owhyee County, selling for $67,871.
The leases included 600 acres in Cassia County, 4,479 acres in Owhyee County and 160 acres in Gem County.
According to a press release, the sale generated $263,229 in bonus bids for the state endowment trusts. The trusts support the public school system, Idaho State University, State Juvenile Corrections Center and more.
Including Wednesday’s auction, Idaho now has leased 97,900 acres for oil and gas development with more than $2.1 million in revenue generated for the state.
The oil and gas business is still very new in Idaho as the state is still in a phase of rule making, and has been crafting it’s regulatory framework over the last couple years. According to IDL, 16 wells in Idaho are drilled and ready for development with one well already in production. Many concerned citizens want to nip oil and gas extraction in the bud before it even starts in the Gem State, and say they don’t want Idaho to wind up like Pennsylvania.
The next state auction for oil and gas leases will take place on January 21, 2015.
Protesters say they’ll be there in dissent even if they’re only allowed to stand in the back, quietly holding a sign.