The following press release was sent out by Shelley Brock, the President of Citizens Allied for Integrity and Accountability (CAIA). Press releases do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of those at the Idaho Dispatch.
Watchdog group says corporate negligence and epic regulatory failure continue to endanger health and safety of Idahoans and environment.
As part of their continuing efforts to protect Idaho residents from irresponsible oil and gas operations in residential areas, the Idaho non-profit Citizens Allied for Integrity and Accountability (CAIA) toured Payette County in late May of this year with a representative from Earthworks to monitor for potentially dangerous emissions from Payette County oil and gas facilities owned and operated by Arkansas-based Snake River Oil and Gas (SROG) and their sister company Idaho Midstream (IM).
ITC-certified optical gas imaging thermographer Andrew Klooster is based in Denver, Colorado, where he routinely monitors oil and gas production operations for Earthworks, a non-profit that works across the US and abroad to protect air, water and land, and ensure healthy communities and corporate accountability. On May 26, 2023, Klooster recorded concerning OGI (optical gas imaging) footage revealing significant, hazardous emissions being released at SROG and IM’s Little Willow Road and Highway 30 gas processing facilities in Payette County. OGI cameras are specially designed infrared cameras that contain filters allowing them to identify hydrocarbon pollutants such as methane and other volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), including cancer causing chemicals invisible to the human eye. These cameras are a proven monitoring technology utilized by the US EPA, state regulatory agencies, and the oil and gas industry to detect emissions from leaks and malfunctions at oil and gas facilities.
Following the discovery of these uncontrolled hydrocarbon emissions from SROG facilities, CAIA filed formal complaints with Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) against the 2 aforementioned facilities based on its finding. Despite compelling footage of active, ongoing pollution, DEQ has not taken any action, instead referring Idaho citizens to the federal EPA for action. CAIA was informed that the Idaho DEQ only has authority to review SROG’s paperwork, and that it does not have either the expertise or the authority to enforce environmental laws prohibiting or limiting the discharge of natural gas, methane, or other hazardous substances coming from oil and gas wells or treatment facilities.
In response to media coverage of CAIA’s complaint Snake River Oil and Gas co-owner Richard Brown asserted,
“We are unaware of this report, and we do not feel it is prudent to comment on any report that does not pertain to our facilities. We work closely with Idaho regulators to ensure we are operating above and beyond industry standards.”
Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commissioner (IOGCC) Jennifer Riebe responded publicly:
“There are multiple state agencies that ensure the integrity of the gas wells including the Department of Environmental Quality, Department of Water Resources, and the (Idaho) Department of Lands. DEQ oversees air quality and thus regulates emissions. IDL staff regularly inspect the wells and processing facilities. If a leak were detected, the Department would require actions to bring the facilities into compliance. The inspections so far in 2023 have not indicated any violations. There are no known leaks or complaints against Snake River Oil and Gas at this time.”Advertisement
Immediately upon receiving DEQ’s response to their complaint, CAIA requested public records from EPA pertaining to multiple violations the federal agency had reportedly uncovered at these same 2 facilities back in 2020. In September CAIA received the first set of responses from EPA. The records show that EPA had collected their own OGI evidence which, clear back in 2018, had uncovered countless, serious violations of multiple regulatory laws that have allowed dangerous emissions to spew uninterrupted from both of the facilities in question for at least half a decade now. The recently disclosed records show that EPA had sent repeated notifications of these violations directly to Arkansas-based SROG co-owner and manager Richard Brown and his partner Chris Weiser (Idaho Midstream, LLC) as well as to their predecessor companies on 05/20/2020, 04/30/2019, and 01/07/2020, but received no response from the operators.
Surprisingly, public records show that shortly after media reports of CAIA’s complaint surfaced, IDL conducted an inspection of the H30 plant and documented for the first time in the agency’s posted history that the facility was ‘out of compliance’ due to hazardous emissions leaking from multiple sources.
CAIA President Shelley Brock asserts,
“Idaho citizens are incensed by state officials who continue to make false claims that Idaho oil and gas operators are strictly policed and that they are following all protective rules and laws when the evidence both from CAIA and the EPA shows that the oil industry has ignored the law and any attempts to hold it accountable, and they have been allowed by these agencies to continue operating illegally for years.”
According to Klooster,
“The Notice Of Violation (NOV) from EPA indicates that there was evidence of uncontrolled emissions from storage tanks at both Little Willow and the H30 Gas Processing Plant in 2018. This evidence provided by EPA coincides with the uncontrolled emissions we filmed at both facilities this spring many years later, which suggests that what we documented may highlight ongoing, unaddressed issues. It also suggests that Snake River and Idaho Midstream have been aware of issues with the storage tanks in the past and that our investigation may have exposed a longstanding pattern of negligence. What we have uncovered here just confirms that, as usual, this industry continues to benefit from lax oversight that focuses primarily on self-reporting and voluntary compliance.”
On October 12, 2023, a natural gas pipeline exploded in Middleton, Idaho, resulting in a call to evacuate the town of 10,000 people. While the gas processing facilities that CAIA found to be discharging volatile chemicals were not directly connected to that pipeline, and were not involved in the pipeline explosion, they are part of the same network of gas wells, processing facilities and pipelines that has grown extensively over the last few years as SROG expanded its operations in Idaho. According to CAIA attorney James Piotrowski,
“Payette County residents have, for years now, been trying to ensure that oil and gas exploration and development in southwest Idaho is done safely and fairly. Throughout those efforts SROG and Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) have refused to take steps that we’ve requested to prevent unintentional releases in the first place and ensure that oil and gas operators are held responsible for the harm that occurs when they happen. Idaho law, however, has allowed them to drill wells where they will cause maximum harm, and to ignore prudent safety standards for the health of Idahoans and the land. IDL tends to focus on drilling as much as possible, without providing adequate protection for affected homeowners.”
“CAIA has worked for years to protect Idahoans from irresponsible oil and gas operations, and we’ll continue employing all available resources to hold this industry and officials at every level of government accountable. We insist that the public agencies we pay to protect us – EPA, DEQ, IDL and IOGCC – start doing their job by shutting down these reckless operators immediately, until they correct the multitude of dangerous health and environmental violations that were documented many years ago and continue today. We encourage anyone living within miles of these facilities who worry that they or their animals may have been sickened by these volatile emissions to contact CAIA. While Payette County is currently ground zero for active oil and gas operations, hundreds of thousands of acres have been leased for future drilling and thousands of miles of potentially explosive natural gas pipelines have been laid across the state, including in Ada County where CAIA is headquartered. Citizens must stand up for their communities before even more of Idaho becomes a sacrifice zone to this industry.”
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Tags: Arkansas-based Snake River Oil and Gas, CAIA, Chris Weiser, Citizens Allied for Integrity and Accountability, DEQ, Earthworks, EPA, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, Idaho Midstream, Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation, IM, IOGC, Jennifer Riebe, Notice of Violation, Payette County, SROG