Fact check: Brad Lit­tle and frack­ing in Idaho

The Idaho Statesman (Sunday) - - LOCAL - BY CYN­THIA SEWELL csewell@ida­hostates­man.com

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 geol- ogy 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.

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.

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 whether Alta Mesa is ac­cu­rately re­port­ing the amount of oil and gas it is draw­ing from its lo­cal wells, and whether 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. 10 As­so­ci­ated Press re­port.

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