State Politics

Idaho governor receives oil and gas chairman’s resignation after potential conflict of interest

Fruitland and Payette residents seek more control over their new oil and gas frontier

Idaho is new to the oil and gas extraction business. The Willow and Hamilton Fields near Payette and Fruitland are the only economically producing wells in Idaho, according to Mick Thomas, Department of Lands Oil and Gas Division administrator.
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Idaho is new to the oil and gas extraction business. The Willow and Hamilton Fields near Payette and Fruitland are the only economically producing wells in Idaho, according to Mick Thomas, Department of Lands Oil and Gas Division administrator.

Gov. Brad Little has ousted Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Chairman Kevin Dickey because of an ethics issue that appears related to the chairman’s recent purchase and sale of Alta Mesa stock.

“Today I asked for and accepted the resignation of the Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission chairman,” Little said in a statement on Tuesday to the Statesman. “Citizen confidence in state government is and will remain one of my top priorities. My office will work to fill the vacancy on the commission as quickly as possible, and I will be requiring all members of the Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to undergo ethics training moving forward.”

Little would not state exactly what happened and would not comment further on the matter.

Dickey provided the Statesman with a letter that he sent to Little on Tuesday detailing his recent purchase of stock in an oil and gas company, Alta Mesa Resources, which is connected to Alta Mesa Idaho, the company doing business in the state.

Dickey states that he purchased 2,500 shares of stock in Alta Mesa Resources on Dec. 26, 2018, and another 2,500 shares on Jan. 4. He said he believed there was no conflict of interest because “AMR is a publicly traded company that focuses on developing oil and gas resources in Oklahoma,” not Idaho.

“That being said, the relationship between AMR, AM Idaho LLC, and Alta Mesa Services, LP is not entirely clear and there could easily be an appearance of a conflict,” Dickey told Little in the letter.

The state has been investigating Alta Mesa for “discrepancies” involving production records in Idaho. The company has repeatedly missed deadlines to provide information requested by the state.

In October, the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission voted to issue subpoenas to Alta Mesa to obtain documents and bring witnesses before the commission.

Dickey states in the letter to Little that he notified the state oil and gas administrator “of my potential conflict on January 3, 2019, within five business days of my original purchase. On January 9, 2019, I was notified that the Attorney General’s office believed that I might have a conflict and so I sold my shares on January 10, 2019.”

Dickey continued, “While I acknowledge this potential conflict of interest, I have concluded that I can continue to impartially participate in these and other Commission matters going forward.”

But later in the day, Dickey resigned.

“We await the governor’s appointment of a new commissioner,” said Idaho Department of Lands spokeswoman Sharla Arledge in a written statement.

All oil and gas commissioners received ethics training in August 2017, according to Arledge.

“Deputy Attorney General Kristina Fugate provided an overview of legal requirements which covered the Ethics in Government Act,” Arledge said. “Each commissioner received an Idaho Ethics in Government manual.”

Former Gov. Butch Otter appointed Dickey to a three-year term on the commission in July 2017.

Dickey, who lives in Emmett, is a petroleum engineer with 30-plus years of oil and gas industry experience. During the problems with Alta Mesa in Idaho last year, he told the commission that he was “disappointed in how fast this process is not moving.”

The company “appears to be stalling. They appear to be ignoring us,” he told the commission in October.

Idaho Statesman investigative reporter Cynthia Sewell was named the 2017 Idaho Press Club reporter of the year. A University of Oregon graduate, she joined the Statesman in 2005. Her family has lived in Idaho since the mid-1800s.

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