Nov. 03–Republican gubernatorial candidate Brad Little has acknowledged allowing oil and gas exploration on some of his land.
His Democratic opponent, Paulette Jordan, sought this past week to connect him to fracking, the controversial hydraulic process used to extract difficult stores of oil and gas from shale rock.
Her campaign on Monday issued a news release: “In November of 2013, Little signed a lease with Snake River Oil and Gas to give access to more than 2,000 acres of his land in Canyon and Gem counties for fracking.”
Later that same day, the issue came up during the KTVB gubernatorial debate, sparking a heated exchange.
When Jordan raised concerns about Little’s interest in and involvement with fracking on his land, Little responded, “I don’t know where you got that because there has been no fracking in Idaho.”
Jordan retorted: “The fact that our current lieutenant governor here is saying that this isn’t an issue, and he is not a part of bringing hydraulic fracturing to the state of Idaho, this is an issue for us.” She added that Little said he wanted “us to open up and expand to allow fracking.”
“I never said that,” Little responded. He then told Jordan, “Well, you will be successful in stopping fracking because there is no fracking.”
The Statesman asked the Idaho Department of Lands to clarify the status of fracking in Idaho.
“There is currently no fracking in Idaho,” said spokesperson Sharla Arledge. “What we have are vertical or near-vertical conventional wells.”
Arledge said the geology of western Idaho, where oil and gas is produced, is primarily sand and not shale. Fracking is typically used with the latter, not with the former. “Hydraulic fracturing is used in oil and gas fields where the hydrocarbons are locked into tight rocks like shale, and high water pressure is needed to break open the rocks and allow the hydrocarbons to flow and be captured.”
Idaho rules do allow for hydraulic fracturing, but to date the state has not received any applications. “The application is more rigorous than a standard application to drill,” Arledge said. “Additional data is required and must be reviewed by both Idaho Department of Lands and Department of Environmental Quality.”
She also addressed online comments around a concept called “mini-fracking.”
“The term ‘mini-fracking’ was a term made up by Bridge Resources. You’ll find it nowhere else in the oil and gas industry,” she said, referring to a Colorado-based company that drilled some commercial natural gas wells in Payette County, then sold them to other developers several years ago.
“It appears what they were describing is the use of pressurized mud to stimulate flow to the well. Bridge did not follow through with this method,” she said.
After media began fact-checking Jordan’s claims, her campaign issued another press release on Wednesday acknowledging that no fracking permits have been pulled in Idaho.
The campaign then referenced problems with Alta Mesa, a Texas oil company that has fracking operations in other states, but not in Idaho.
The state is investigating Alta Mesa, but not over fracking. Idaho is trying to determine if Alta Mesa is accurately reporting the amount of oil and gas it is drawing from its local wells, and if it is paying the correct amount of royalties to the state on three Alta Mesa wells in which the state has an interest, according to an Oct. 10Associated Press report.
As for Little’s 2013 lease agreement, his campaign said Little did buy some land that had existing oil and gas leases when he bought it. Those leases were transferred with the purchase; there has been no activity on them.
Cynthia Sewell is the Statesman’s political investigative reporter. Contact her at (208) 377-6428, firstname.lastname@example.org or @CynthiaSewell on Twitter.
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