Letters From the West

Idaho Lands auctions oil and natural gas leases, attracts peaceful protesters

Bidders for AM Idaho, left and Trendwell West, right compete for 17,000 acres of mineral leases April 17, 2014

Bidders for AM Idaho, David Pepper, left, David Murrell, center, left and Bill Sheehan, right of Trendwell West, compete for 17,700 acres of mineral leases April 17, 2014

Protesters joined natural gas exploration company executives at an auction Thursday of oil and gas leases at the Idaho Department of Lands office in Boise.

Two companies – Trendwell West, a Michigan firm with a well already drilled in Canyon County, and AM Idaho, which controls the natural gas wells in Payette County nearly ready for production – bid on 150 tracts in Ada, Canyon, Gem, Owyhee, Payette, and Washington counties.

More than 17,700 acres of state-owned lands and minerals were auctioned at an average bid of $76 per acre.

AM Idaho was awarded leases on 124 tracts for $1,148,435 in bonus bids.

The leases were for approximately 6,071 acres in Canyon County, 3,281 acres in Ada County, 2,789 acres in Gem County, 2,563 acres in Payette County, 2,375 acres in Washington County and 631 acres in Owyhee County.

The highest competitive bid was $505 per acre on approximately 141 acres located in Canyon County. This lease sold for $71,578 and was the largest total bid for any tract.

Of the mineral rights auctioned for oil and gas leases, 13,947 acres are owned by the state endowment trust, 1,415 acres are owned by the state public trust and 2,348 acres are owned by other state agencies.

Lands and minerals owned by the state endowment trust are managed under a constitutional mandate to generate maximum long-term income for public schools and other beneficiaries.

Thursday’s auction generated $610,014 in bonus bids for the endowment trusts, most of which will go to Idaho public schools. Leases auctioned for other state agencies generated $431,873.

The public trust acres auctioned for lease generated $106,547 for the state general fund.

Public trust lands and minerals are located in the beds of the Snake, Payette and Boise rivers. They are owned by the state of Idaho and are managed for the public benefit.

The protesters raised concerns about drilling under the rivers and about the effects of fossil fuels on the climate.

Idaho has 14 wells drilled and ready for development or already in development. The next auction for state oil and gas leases is scheduled for Oct. 15.

Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Letters from the West