Idaho’s oil and gas regulators agreed to a settlement Wednesday with a Texas oil producer Alta Mesa for failing to comply with state rules, and heard updates on other ongoing issues involving the company.
Houston-based Alta Mesa operates hundreds of oil and gas leases on private and state land in Payette County.
Over the last few years, state regulators and lawmakers have been working to strengthen state laws to increase the reporting requirements placed on oil and gas operators. Despite the changes, the state has struggled to get Alta Mesa to comply with certain rules.
On Wednesday, Mick Thomas, Idaho Department of Lands oil and gas division administrator, updated the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission on the state’s latest actions:
▪ Penalty: Alta Mesa has agreed to pay the state $4,000 for not complying with state rules. The Oil and Gas Commission on Tuesday approved the settlement. This issue stems from an Oct. 5 violation notice the state sent Alta Mesa for not getting state approval before performing work on a well, and for not submitting a required report on time. “This is the first time we’ve had a notice of violation in the department,” Thomas told the commission. “Operationally there weren’t errors. What they did was not wrong. They just didn’t tell us what they were going to do.”
▪ Eviction: Following an audit of state oil and gas leases operated by Alta Mesa, the state on Sept. 17 sent Alta Mesa a demand letter requiring it to pay delinquent royalties and to provide specific documents and other information. Alta Mesa did not respond to the letter, according to the state. So, on Oct. 26, the Attorney General’s Office issued a notice of default to Alta Mesa. If the state does not receive full payment and all required documents and information before Jan. 24, the Idaho Department of Lands “may terminate the leases and begin eviction proceedings,” the notice states.
▪ Subpoena: The Idaho Department of Lands has sought oil production reports, analyses and other documents from Alta Mesa, as required per state law. When Alta Mesa failed to comply, the state on Oct. 16 subpoenaed the company.. Since then, Alta Mesa has provided a “voluminous amount of data,” but “it did not entirely fulfill everything” the subpoena required, Thomas told the commission. “This is an ongoing investigation. … Once the department completes its investigation, we will report its findings to the commission,” he said. “Our hope is to have a summary of the investigation done before year’s end.”
Credit: Idaho Statesman
By: Cynthia Sewell