PAYETTE COUNTY -- A Texas company has started drilling for natural gas in southwest Idaho.

Workers with Alta Mesa are looking for natural gas in Payette County, and they already have one drilling operation up and running, with permitting to start another.

The exploration is happening on private land north of New Plymouth.

It's pretty exciting, said industry spokesman John Foster. It's a sign that the industry is moving forward here in Idaho.

Foster, who also works for Snake River Oil and Gas, said these wells could bring economic growth to the area.

You have a lot of folks needed to drill wells and to do the kinds of things infrastructure wise that are needed for these kinds of projects, Foster said.

However, how much economic growth these wells could bring depends on how much natural gas is in them.

If this new drilling shows there really is the resource there that we all hope exists, it will mean great things for that part of the state and for Idaho in general, Foster said. If there is gas discovered and sold, a percentage of the sale goes directly to Idaho and then goes back to the local communities.

What about environmental concerns over natural gas drilling? Foster said Idaho's laws will help protect the environment from being negatively impacted by the natural gas wells.

The legislature passed and the department of lands administers very strict rules that require our industry to be very careful about how it drills its wells, said Foster. There's extensive amounts of concrete and steel and reinforcement to make sure that the drilling process never impacts the environment around it.

It's important to note that neither of Alta Mesa's two permitted drilling locations in Payette County are actually producing natural gas at this time. That's because Alta Mesa is still investigating the resources underground.

Another important point: there's no hydraulic fracturing or fracking going on right now.

If Alta Mesa chooses to pursue fracking, they would have to get a special permit from the state of Idaho. The Idaho Department of Lands told KTVBthey have not received any permit requests for fracking.

Foster did not say if they have any plans for hydraulic fracking in Payette County in the future.

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