Saturday, January 16, 2010

Las Vegas Optic, County enacts drilling moratorium

By David Giuliani

The San Miguel County Commission passed a year-long moratorium on permits for oil and gas drilling — a move supported by everyone who spoke before the panel, including an industry spokeswoman.

No one has approached the county about possible drilling, but companies have proposed such activity in neighboring Mora and Santa Fe counties.

In calling for the moratorium, the county plans to form a task force and seek the advice of experts to develop a new ordinance for drilling. The current land-use ordinance includes just a half page dealing with such activity.

More than 20 speakers came before the commission to urge the moratorium’s passage.

Leslie Turk, who lives on Las Dispensas Road, said she believed the moratorium would give the county a chance to develop an ordinance that would adequately protect residents and all of the aspects of the county that are “unique to us.”

She also said she was concerned about the chemicals used in drilling as well as the issues surrounding split estates, where someone else owns the subsurface rights to properties.

Cristino Griego, a Sapello resident, said he wanted the county to develop an oil and gas ordinance that was as strict as possible allowed under the law.

Another area resident, Miguel Pacheco, went further.

“The moratorium is a good thing. What I would like to see is an eventual ban,” he said to applause. “The legalities will be complicated, but it’s the right thing to do.”

Karin Foster of the Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico said her group, too, favored a moratorium.

“A moratorium will give the commission time to learn the issues. This is an emotional issue for a lot of people,” said Foster, an attorney. “We need a conversation on this matter.”

She said she had offered her help to Mora County, which is drafting an ordinance for drilling. But Mora County didn’t accept her assistance, she said. More>>>