The State of Idaho wants the federal government to assume regulation of wastewater injection wells.
The request was made of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency which is taking public comments until early January on the proposed plan to transfer part of Idaho’s Underground Injection Control program.
The request was made in August after the state failed to get EPA approval to regulate class II injection wells, according to the Idaho Statesman newspaper.
“The lack of class II injection well permits is the single biggest hindrance to developing this industry in Idaho,” said John Foster, spokesman for Texas-based oil company Alta Mesa. He explained the company has six operating production wells and nine wells that are capable of producing but are turned off.
Without the wastewater injection wells, Alta Mesa, a firm with operations in Oklahoma’s STACK play, is forced to use trucks to haul the wastewater to evaporative ponds.
Add the mix of former Devon Energy employee Mick Thomas to the development. He is now Idaho’s Oil and Gas administrator at the Idaho Department of Lands. Thomas also previously as a senior geologist and head of mineral resources at the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources.
While Oklahoma has suffered and experienced hundreds of earthquakes thought to have been caused by wastewater injection wells, Thomas doesn’t think they will result in quakes in Idaho.
Idaho wells, he said, involve high-porosity sand formations from which oil and gas flow easily. That’s different from the shale formations in Oklahoma that require hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and the introduction of fluids to break open the shale. Access fluids are then sent down injection wells.
Idaho wastewater, Thomas said, was already in the ground and is simply being put back where it came from, resulting in no net increase, unlike the process in Oklahoma.
The Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission meets next week and injection wells are expected to be discussed.