Payette County Commissioners passed a gas and oil drilling ordinance after a public hearing on Monday at the courthouse.
After hearing testimony from Payette County residents who mostly said the ordinance needed to expand the setback from 200 feet in the new ordinance to the 500 feet it had been in the previous ordinance.
Several testified that a neighbor who signs a lease allowing drilling to be done on his or her property would force another neighbor to endure the drilling despite the possible refusal of signing a lease. They said that 200 feet is not an adequate distance.
New Plymouth resident Tina Fisher said that if one neighbor signs a lease but the other neighbor doesn’t want it, it is unfair to that neighbor.
“Two-hundred feet is woefully inadequate,” Fisher said.
However, Commissioner Larry Church said the reason they decreased the setback by 300 feet was so that a small farm owner could have the chance to sign a lease with the gas company if they wanted.
“If the setback was at 500 feet, it would make the property a minimum of 20 acres at least,” Church said. “Small farmers should be able to have the right to sign with the industry.”
Commissioners approved a setback of 200 feet.
Additionally, New Plymouth Mayor Joe Cook testified and asked if the Commissioners could require the results of the water testing be sent to the local governments.
The ordinance initially read that the results be sent to the county and the landowners within a quarter-mile of the drilling location. Commissioners agreed that it was necessary for the local city governments to have access to the results and they agreed to make sure that the results also would be posted online.
The commissioners decided to discuss the public hearing testimony this week instead of waiting for the commissioners’ meeting next week. All of the commissioners voted to pass the ordinance with the amendments in place.
Payette County is one of the first counties in Idaho to have an ordinance regarding the gas industry in addition to the state’s new legislation regulating the industry.