The Latest: Final vote delayed on amended oil-gas ordinance
Nov. 17, 2017
BERNALILLO, N.M. (AP) — The Latest on a proposed ordinance that would govern oil and gas development across a large New Mexico county (all times local):
Sandoval County commissioners will have to wait to take a final vote on a proposed ordinance aimed at regulating oil and gas development across thousands of square miles of unincorporated lands in northwestern New Mexico.
The commission heard hours of public testimony Thursday before adopting two changes during deliberations that stretched into Friday. Because the proposal was amended, the commission will have to wait until its next meeting to take up the new version.
During a packed meeting, several tribal leaders testified they were not consulted while environmentalists, activists and concerned residents voiced concerns that groundwater supplies could be contaminated by increased drilling in the region.
Many asked the commission to delay a vote so more data could be reviewed and the issue studied further.
The All Pueblo Council of Governors also passed a resolution Thursday in opposition of the ordinance.
Energy companies and industry representatives argued that the commission had developed a fair and balanced ordinance that would fill a regulatory void and provide for economic opportunities.
Business leaders say a proposed ordinance that would govern oil and gas development across a large New Mexico county would boost economic development, but activists, tribal leaders and environmentalists are worried about the potential effects on the environment.
Dozens of people packed Thursday night's Sandoval County Commission, some holding signs referring to toxic waste and polluted water. Many asked the commissioners to table the proposal pending further analysis and more discussions with the public and Native American communities.
Several pueblo governors attended the meeting along with state lawmakers whose districts include parts of the sprawling county.
Sandia Pueblo Lt.Gov. Lawrence Gutierrez told commissioners that his tribe is concerned about water quality and quantity, noting that supplies are uncertain in the arid state. He pointed to the billions of gallons used annually by oil and gas producers in other parts of the state.
Elected leaders in one New Mexico county are considering an ordinance that would guide energy development across a large swath of land that borders the state's largest metropolitan area and numerous Native American communities.
Sandoval County's proposed regulations have generated much debate, with activists raising concerns about the potential environmental effects of increased drilling.
Meanwhile, supporters are highlighting the industry's multibillion-dollar role in the state's economy and the current void of regulations in the sprawling county.
The County Commission is taking up the matter Thursday evening.
The ordinance would apply to the county's unincorporated lands and would not affect state or federal regulations already in place.
While energy companies have operated for decades in areas along the edge of the San Juan Basin, there has been little interest in Sandoval County's southern, more populated reaches.