Federal judge rules in favor of Payette County residents and CAIA in fight over mineral rights

Posted at 9:14 PM, Aug 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-15 00:13:41-04

The Citizens Allied for Integrity and Accountability group has won a lawsuit in the federal court over the forced extraction of oil on some Payette County land. It's an argument residents of Payette County have been dealing with for over a year.

Defined as forced pooling, which raised even more concern just within the last year for some residents in Fruitland after a Texas-based oil company moved in, proposing the purchase of landowners mineral rights. But when many landowners denied the proposal, residents were force pooled, meaning they were required to allow the drilling company to extract the mineral resources underneath their land, becoming part of a natural gas drilling unit.

"For people like me who refused to lease, they forced us, they forced us to lease to Alta Mesa,” says Fruitland Resident Rachael Heather Holtry. 

Arguing the drilling less than one mile from her neighborhood brings risks that she was not willing to take.

Holtry also says, "I don't think anyone understands the consequences of those actions, especially in a neighborhood, in a community this small. "

The drilling takes place just a few hundred feet from the Payette River as well as the water treatment plant.

All the more reason Rachael was thrilled with a ruling from a federal district judge on Monday, who ruled it was unconstitutional to force people to sell their mineral rights under terms that are just and reasonable when no one actually defined the terms "just and reasonable".

Citizens Allied for Integrity and Accountability, or CAIA, filed the lawsuit discussed in U.S. District Court and the judge ruled in their favor Monday, saying landowners were denied due process in forced pooling for oil and gas drilling. Judge B. Lynn Winmill ordered the Department of Lands to vacate the order. 

CAIA President of Board of Directors says, "We're not anti-oil and gas, that lawsuit was designed to protect Idaho citizens who are being forced by state regulators to allow an out of state oil company to come up here and drill under their homes against their will."

According to the ruling, the Department of Lands and Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will have 30 days to decide whether to appeal. In the meantime, homeowners and CAIA say they'll seek to recover attorney fees and costs allotted to the suit.