This blog is about the oil and hydraulic fracture drilling 8,000 wells in proposal for Rio Rancho Estates, RioRancho and Zia Pueblo. We need to spread the word and get people to show up at the County of Sandoval meetings. The oil and gas ordinance is being driven by oil industry, and multinational investment banks.
On Monday 28th, the County Commission had a special work meeting to discuss the budget, oil and gas ordinances and a moratorium on oil and gas projects. The County invited NM Tech and heads of the NMEER, OCD and the Association of Counties to this meeting. The purpose of the meeting was that they needed to discuss how they were to handle the issues before them. The County stated that they needed reliable data so they could make a sound decision.
The good news first.
The County will release the draft ordinance to the public on the oil and gas ordinance prior to the Planning & Zoning Commission (P&Z) meeting in order to allow input from the public at two public forums. Members of the public will be allowed to view, comment and suggest changes. NM Tech in Socorro is reviewing the drafted ordinance. We requested that we be allowed to review the draft document prior to the P&Z Commission. Planning and Zoning staff will schedule the forums. The process for the oil and gas ordinance will be presented to the public at two or three public forums, two P&Z public hearings. The document containing the final draft ordinance could then go to the County Commission in May, or June. It may be 3-4 weeks before the first public forum.
We could actually see oil drilling within 90 days of this approved ordinance unless we fight it. Please send your comments to us expressing what you think should be in the ordinances. The one thing we will require is a meter(s) on the wellhead(s).
Some of the changes already talked about in the draft ordinance were mentioned and there are red flags.
In the oil and gas ordinance, based on the Rio Arriba, San Miguel and Santa Fe Ordinance, the County will change the Special Use Permit into a two-tiered system. The exploration wells will be permitted with a Temporary Use Permit to allow the exploration.
A conditional use permit would be used in the San Juan Basin for production. This is problematic because separating the exploration from the production may allow for a plethora of wells like it did in Rio Arriba County, which has over 11,000 wells according to the OCD. Mike Springfield called “the Santa Fe Ordinance a bunch of riga-ma-row.” So, it sounds like the County will allow chemicals to be used. They said they took a couple of things from the Santa Fe ordinance, but not the main focus of the ordinance. County Commissioner Walters directed the county to filter the gaps between the OCD regulations and county land use ordinances.
At the County Commission special work meeting, it was announced that this coming month the New Mexico oil and gas industry associates and NM Tech, in conjunction with the Association of Counties, have invited the P&Z and the Sandoval County Commission to a presentation they will be giving to the ABQ Bernalillo County Water Authority (ABCWA). The ABCWA will be presenting the geo-hydrology studies that they have done on the upper Albuquerque basin. Perhaps this will be an opportunity for the representatives of oil and gas to prep the commissioners and water authority for water purchases in the Middle Rio Grande Basin for the next big drill of Mancos Shale on the Albuquerque area West Mesa/ Pajarito plateau. The Mancos shale reaches into Santa Fe County and most likely on BLM and Pueblo lands too! See Mancos Shale
There were other telling comments made:
The oil and gas fight has just begun here in the Middle Rio Grande Valley.
The Association of Counties was also in attendance at the meeting and stated, “the Mora County Ordinance was very heavy handed.”
Then, Mike Springfield called the Email and written letters from the community against oil and gas “Spam.” He suggested that the groups combine their responses to the county so they don’t have to deal with all that.
Where are the Commissioners at regarding the votes on the issue?
The Commission is split on these issues.
Commissioners Madelena and Chapman are for oil and gas extraction and the use of fracking.
Commissioner Dominguez is against oil and gas extraction and the use of fracking if it affects farming and ranching.
Commissioner Walters is the swing vote.
Commissioner Schernzinger is against oil and gas extraction.
We were told this is a quasi-judicial issue by the County, however, I have been told by attorneys at the Foundation for Open Government that this is a legislative issue, not a quasi-judicial issue and talking to the County Commission is okay on this issue. The County Attorney and the County staff are trying to give us public participation with one hand and taking away public access to our representatives with the other hand. If a commissioner feels uncomfortable with talking to constituents, or meeting with them, they can say they cannot talk about this issue. There is nothing wrong with that. However, using it as a crutch to keep the public comment away from the Commissioners is unacceptable. It has been suggested that because it is the oil and gas industry who is involved, they may be erring on the side of caution. It’s important to point out here that these are two different types of hearings and the ex parte communication to one party, but not the other does not apply here.
At the March 23 meeting, [it’s not clear which meeting this is] there were the oil and gas ordinances and the changes to the zoning ordinances from Rio Rancho Estates (RRE) presented without notice of the intended changes to the residents in the area who are going to be affected. This includes residents living in an area that could be considered extraterritorial locations, thereby making them exempt from local ordinances and laws.
At first I reported the RRE was changed from Rural-Residential zoning to Urban zoning, but after clarification from Makita Hill, the Urban Zoning that was in the main ordinances was made years ago for a development called Rio West, now defunct. We will not know what the exact language is to be until the county releases it. They do not expect the main ordinance to come back to P&Z until later next month. I believe everyone who will be affected has the right to know what plans the County has allowed the oil and gas industry to develop in the RRE and what lies beyond—the King Ranch.
The residents living in the area that would be affected have not been notified on these proposed “reformed” zoning and ordinance changes and this includes a 3-5 mile portion of the western city limits and the area west of the city known as Rio Rancho Estates that could be zoned as an extra-territorial Zone. There are ranges of other areas in Sandoval County that will be affected.
If the County were creating an "urban district" in Rio Rancho Estates, it would become a ‘Brownfield’ making a way for the oil and gas industry to drill. The residents of the area have a right to address their concerns regarding quality of life issues.
If they decide to allow oil and gas development, the economics of the industry and its impacts could run the county and the property taxes into the ground. Only if we defend an unpolluted, healthy environment with sustainable economic policies will the middle managers, venture capitalists and other business interests be willing to locate here. They will not come to a sacrifice zone, where you cannot control the “polluters” who are only to willing in the pursuit of short term profits to turn our community into a superfund site.
The ideal place for these issues to be heard is in informational meetings and through public notices and hearings where they cannot be ignored by the County Staff or the Commission administrators well before they make critical & sometimes irreversible decisions. If our voices are not heard before decisions are made, then these public hearings become illusionary theatrics. Additional industry or industry in this area would demonstrate the County is purposefully planning industry around low-income, undeveloped, minority communities (and in the case of the oil and gas ordinance in the Northwest part of the County without access to adequate healthcare), that cause physical, economic, psychological and social effects. The oil and gas industry is no respecter of private property rights. They flourish in remote, underserved areas where residents are poorly informed and routinely experience prolonged financial distress linked to inadequate employment opportunities. The industry promotes itself as a job creator, but the reality is very different. Job creation is by no means impressive and the jobs they do create are temporary and transient. They exploit and deplete the resource, take their profits and move on leaving the mess behind for someone else to clean up. If you are temporarily employed with no prospect for a better job, it doesn’t matter what quality of healthcare is available if you can’t afford it. The physical, economic, psychological and social effects of oil and gas extraction are clearly devastating to families, communities, environments, the climate and the planet
There is an essential and important discretion that must be adopted by the county when considering, developing and administering legislation. Foremost should be the protection and guarantee of individual justice. The impact on middle-low-income undeveloped, minority communities from industrial sites must be minimized and, ideally, prevented altogether. The oil and gas industry is dedicated to proliferation and maximized profits. When we as a community agree to allow the exploitation of oil and gas resources, the evaluation of whether the effects on communities and social well-being will rise to the level of a public nuisance, or potential hazard to public health and welfare, is a relevant and vital issue. We cannot fully and properly consider the implications of changes to zoning and ordinances unless proper and timely notice and opportunity is assured for the community to participate in the process.
There are important revisions that must be made to what P&Z is doing in their efforts to provide ordinances that will serve the best interests of the people who live in Sandoval County. By opening the door to industry in rural and residential areas of the county, conflicting interests and values become inevitable. Clarity and transparency are of the utmost importance because I could not have known from the description on the agenda of meetings I have mentioned what ordinances were going to be discussed. While government is not "perfect," it does and should follow the law and that law requires government to assure public participation in a meaningful and democratic way.
I believe that county officials are narrowly interpreting how and when the public is heard. We, the public, have a right to know what our county government is planning and how it will affect our lives and property and the environment we depend on for life. The purpose and essential goal of public participation during this process is to provide community members the opportunity to ask questions, offer their own technical evidence, cross examine witnesses and make non-technical statements. The establishment of procedures in writing to facilitate public participation in Sandoval County concerning applications and zoning changes must be made and posted on the county website so that questions on the policies the county is considering, or has made, can be submitted and addressed by everyone concerned. Unilateral government officials subvert our democratic institutions.
I will be making a presentation to the Commission, 1500 Idalia Road, Bernalillo, NM, 87004, County Commission Chambers, 3rd Floor Bldg. D, on April 7th at 6pm.
The topics are:
1 A Resolution to support the Fee and Dividend system on a state and national platform.
2 Fee and Dividend program for Sandoval County: what it would mean to the Residents.
3 To form a working group for Sandoval County to enact the Fee and Dividend system in Sandoval County in order to meter gas at the gas wellheads in order to bring the severance tax in line with 20-30% emissions from abandoned and low producing wells and to stop methane emissions.
Also, that night the County Commission will vote on a 2-year moratorium.
We need help with the following:
• 5-10 People with Excel MS skills to help with our mailing list with data entry. Each person will have 25-50 names to enter and send back to us.
• Research and Development on the working group for the Fee and Dividend System.
• To help with tabling at UNM
• Help with 1-2 minute PSA video projects
• Help research
• Help write Op-ed pieces and track Op-ed pieces locally and nationally
• Help hand out fliers on campuses and to businesses
• To go to meetings and support our cause
• To protest at the OCD, NMEER and Roundhouse for enforcement and more stringent regulations on oil and gas and for support of the Fee and Dividend System.
• Help create fliers
• Help update blog and group pages
• Help with social media submissions and outreach
Please contact Elaine Cimino firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
We need people to support a renewable and sustainable source for creating a better world! Helps us win the hearts and minds of the people and our leaders.
Several groups will be holding an anti-fracking and drilling rally on
April 20th 2016.
Keep it in the Ground Rally and Protest
Our land is under Attack!
BLM Lease Sale Courtyard
Marriot 3347 Cerrillos RD
Santa Fe NM
8:30 – 10 am