- Associated Press - Thursday, July 21, 2016

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - The Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission wants to know sooner and in more detail what companies are producing in the state.

The panel on Thursday voted 3-0 to direct the Idaho Department of Lands to work on proposed legislation to require companies to report well production sooner than the current six months.

“It makes sense to me,” said Vice Chairman Margaret Chipman. “The sooner we release it the better.”

Having production records sooner could also help state officials.

“We think it’s important to get that information as soon as possible to help us understand the field,” said Department of Lands Director Tom Schultz. “Even as we permit future wells and consider issues of spacing and well placement, having that data in a timely manner is important.”

The state getting the information sooner could also change when well production records are made available to the general public, which is currently one year. It’s not clear though if that would change even if the state gets the records sooner.

The proposed legislation would also clarify what records would be reported because some records that are considered public information in other states could be claimed as trade secrets under Idaho law, Schultz said.

Metering of wells also came up during the meeting.

Idaho currently has eight producing wells, all operated by Houston, Texas,-based Alta Mesa, and other companies are working toward producing wells. Questions have been raised about how Idaho makes sure it gets accurate information about what is being produced and reported. This has ramifications for the amount a company pays out in royalties as well as money collected by the state.

“I’m concerned about that, yes,” Chairman Chris Beck said after the meeting. “I think we need to be able to answer that question for the taxpayer as well as for the state. I’d like to discuss if further.”

John Foster, a spokesman for Alta Mesa, said after the meeting there was no reason to have concerns about Alta Mesa’s reporting.

“I think the issue is widely misunderstood by people who are not directly involved in the industry,” he said.

Commissioner Ken Smith said production is tracked through transactions among buyers and sellers, resulting in accurate information for the state.

“I’m quite comfortable that the oil and gas companies are working carefully to make sure they get their money, and the buyers are going to make sure they get their product,” he said.

The commission also directed the state agency to pursue membership in the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, now that Idaho qualifies as a natural gas and oil producing state.

Membership would have to be approved by state lawmakers and the governor.

“It’s a natural step,” Beck said. “We have a lot to learn as our program matures and we can learn from the Compact Commission.”

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