Monday, May 31, 2010

Panel's makeup in dispute

Luckily Drilling Santa Fe has been keeping up with the local news. Anyways, onwards with today's news.

Las Vegas Optic
31 May 2010
Panel's makeup in dispute
By David Giuliani

Some are alleging that San Miguel County’s new task force on oil and gas regulations is heavily weighted toward the industry.

Of the 10 members, four of them have ties to oil and gas.

In April, the County Commission formed the panel to make recommendations for an ordinance that would deal specifically with oil and gas drilling. No requests for drilling are pending, but officials said they wanted to be prepared.

Both the county and the city of Las Vegas have enacted moratoriums on any drilling until they can enact new regulations.

For its task force, the county has divided the members into four groups — oil and gas industry, environmental and educational, citizens and county representatives.

The oil industry members consist of Karin Foster, an attorney with the Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico, and John Michael Richardson of the Petroleum and Mineral Land Services firm.

The environmental and educational members are Jeffrey Mills of the state Environment Department and Ken Bentson, a forestry professor at Highlands University.

The citizen members are general contractor J. David Blagg, retiree Ernesto Borunda and resident Larry Webb.

The county representatives are County Commissioner Nicolas Leger, County Manager Les Montoya and Planning and Zoning Supervisor Alex Tafoya.

Besides Foster and Richardson, both Webb and Mills are linked to the oil and gas industry.

In March, Webb urged the County Commission to do away with the moratorium. He said he had leases with companies for oil and gas drilling on the county’s east side. The moratorium, he said, was taking away his private property rights without just compensation.

He lists a Newkirk, N.M., address, which is in Guadalupe County. It’s not clear whether a citizen member can live outside San Miguel County.

Mills, an environmental member, said he is not on the task force as a representative of the Environment Department. Rather, he said he was there to provide his expertise because of his years of work in the oil and gas industry.

Mills acknowledged that he had discovered oil in the Gulf of Mexico and is a beneficiary of oil and gas royalties in Texas and Louisiana. He has worked for the Environment Department since 2001.

Mills praised the county for being “proactive” in its approach to possible oil and gas drilling. He said he is not affiliated with any oil and gas interests in New Mexico.

He said that when he wrote the county about his interest in a task force position, he focused on his experience in the industry, not as an employee of the Environment Department.

Pat Leahan of the Las Vegas Peace and Justice Center said she is concerned that the task force isn’t representative of science and community concerns.

“We can have industry people on the task force. But we need to have balance,” she said.

She said she and 13 others applied to belong to the task force and that none of them were pushing for a complete ban on drilling. More>>>