Pressured to lease?

Alta Mesa currently has one active well in New Plymouth. It could get more outside Fruitland following a potential integration order issued by the state. 

Residents near Fruitland have complained to local legislators about a gas company they say is pressuring them to lease their minerals.

Brynna Smith, of Fruitland, said an Alta Mesa landman was polite to her and her husband, Luke, up until their last meeting, when the Smiths confirmed they would not lease their minerals.

“He got really frustrated,” Brynna Smith said. “Then he said, ‘You might as well sign it because we’re going to put it right behind your house.’”

The Smiths submitted their complaints to District 9 Rep. Ryan Kerby and Sen. Abby Lee. Both Republican legislators reached out to Alta Mesa representatives.

“What I have said to Alta Mesa representatives is you have to treat every single resident with complete respect,” Kerby said. “All you need to do is give them accurate information.”

“Do not, in any way shape or form, try to intimidate them or make them feel bad,” he added.

Fruitland residents Jackie Fox, Brittany Sandoval, Sue Bixby and Heather Holtry individually recounted experiences similar to Smith’s to the Independent-Enterprise.

Alta Mesa representatives say the alleged pressure techniques are not in line with company policy and values.

“Alta Mesa disputes these allegations in the strongest possible terms,” spokeswoman Kate Haas said. “We will operate in the same way as we have done from our first day in Idaho: with respect for the process, for the communities in which we operate and for the citizens of Idaho.”

Alta Mesa is not the only company sending landmen to collect leases near Fruitland. Steve Rapanos, a land manager with Michigan-based Trendwell Energy Corp., said his company is also collecting leases in the area. Trendwell does not currently have any oil or gas wells drilled.

Alta Mesa has two pending applications that would integrate two sections outside Fruitland if the state approves them following a public hearing Sept. 16. Until it gets state approval, Alta Mesa cannot integrate mineral rights and drill natural gas wells.

Integration occurs when at least 55 percent of mineral interest owners on a 640-acre section agree to lease their underground minerals to a gas or oil well operator. The remaining 45 percent can subsequently be integrated following a public hearing and state order.

If the integration requests are approved in September, nonconsenting owners will have a choice to lease, become a working interest owner by investing in the well or do nothing and become deemed leased. All nonconsenting owners will receive royalties if a well is productive.

Both Kerby and Lee said they hope residents bring their questions and concerns to an Aug. 10 open house with the Idaho Department of Lands and Alta Mesa representatives at McCain Middle School. Attendees will have the opportunity to submit written comments and questions at the meeting.

Alta Mesa is planning to host a local meeting as well, but company officials have not yet set a date.

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