State Politics

Idaho Senate panel votes to create oil and gas division at Department of Lands

The growing burden of regulating Idaho’s nascent oil and gas industry prompted the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee to approve creating a new division within the Idaho Department of Lands.

The new oil and gas division will include the 1.3 full time employees currently devoted to overseeing the new industry plus three more, including a petroleum geologist or petroleum engineer.

“It’s been clear we need more expertise,” said Blackfoot Republican Sen. Steve Bair, sponsor of the bill and chairman of the committee.

Department of Lands Director Tom Schultz said the workload justifies the $375,000 cost, which will come out of the general fund until more revenues are generated by the industry.

In 2016 Alta Mesa Idaho, the only company producing oil and gas in the state, paid $70,000 severance tax. Schultz said he expects about $180,000 in tax revenue this year.

Rocky Barker: 208-377-6484, @RockyBarker