Paul Lowrey announced he will step down Friday as oil and gas manager for the Idaho Department of Lands.
Lowrey is the agency’s second person to oversee the industry and has only been in the job for a few months. He said he is leaving the job because of family needs.
“It was a difficult personal decision because I will miss working for a commission and an agency that so ably balance many public interests related to their regulatory responsibilities in oil and gas,” Lowrey said in a statement.
Department of Lands officials said they will begin advertising the position in the next week.
Meanwhile, the Eagle City Council will hold a special informational meeting on natural gas at 6 p.m. in its city hall Tuesday.
The council set up the meeting after the group Citizens Allied for Integrity and Accountability asked for the time to address the issue. The groups which includes drilling opponents said they wanted the meeting because Alta Mesa Idaho has leased thousands of acres in Eagle and throughout Ada, Payette, Washington and Gem counties.
Alta Mesa Idaho spokesman John Foster said it has no immediate plans for any drilling or exploration activity in Eagle and instead has been concentrating its efforts in Payette County. But Citizens Allied for Integrity and Accountability, which will present its side Tuesday is skeptical.
Their leader Alma Hasse has repeatedly said drillers plan to eventually use hydraulic fracturing in Idaho. However, geologists and industry representatives have called the claim untrue.
Idaho Department of Lands Director Tom Schultz said at a public meeting in August that attracted more than 140 people, the new practice of horizontal fracturing, where the driller turns the drill perpendicular into a shale formation and, under heavy pressure, pumps fluid and sand to open space for the gas to escape, isn’t planned for southwest Idaho.
That’s because Idaho’s natural gas formations are found in sand not in the shale formations located elsewhere. Alta Mesa also has not done the more traditional practice of well stimulation, where chemicals and low pressure are applied to the well to clear away debris. This is a practice that has been done for decades and has none of the major effects of horizontal fracking.
Paul Powell, vice president of the Idaho Petroleum Council also will make a presentation to the council.
Meanwhile, John Pieserich, chief counsel for Alta Mesa Idaho told lawmakers Friday Idaho began “significant” production of natural gas in Idaho Aug. 1. Actual production began in 2014 in a single well in New Plymouth. Idaho has brought $5 million in sales of mineral rights since 2014 including rights on federal lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
But with significant production beginning Idaho should begin to see royalty and tax revenues soon.