Friday, June 27, 2008

Meeting with Planner

On July 1st at 10:30am, Johnny and an expert are meeting with Bruce Peshoff of Planning Works about planning. Will update on the DSF blog.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Viva Rio Arriba! Hearing Notes and an Albuquerque Journal North Article

"During cross examination, County Attorney Trujillo challenged Reed’s statement that "Approach was environmentally responsible and had no spills greater than 100 barrels." Trujillo painstakingly went over four recent spills of Approach in Texas, reported by Approach to the Railroad Commission of Texas, wherein almost 10,000 gallons of crude oil and gas well liquids were spilled and unrecovered in a 14 month period in 2006 and 2007. Another 3,000+ gallons were lost when they burned overnight, completely consuming the entire storage tank. Truijuillo asked, "These locations you have proposed are in the mountains, in the timber. What would happen if you had that fire here?"'

For the entire notes and article, go to Common Ground United website by clicking here.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

County's water plan is build on renewable resources

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Fort Worth based Approach Resources

Just saying no to the Barnett Shale
By Jim Fuquay

Source: Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Credit: Star-Telegram staff writer
Sunday, April 6, 2008
Edition: Tarrant, Section: Work and Money, Page E1

Approach, based in Fort Worth, isn't afraid to follow a path less traveled.

"Approach's various plays - mostly natural gas but some crude oil present challenges similar to those posed by the Barnett Shale, where producers face what's called a "tight" formation that doesn't let go of its gas easily. In Texas, the company's properties are in tight sandstones. Kentucky and New Mexico are shales, while the Canadian venture, in British Columbia, is both tight sand and shale.

Those properties, called unconventional resources, match Approach's technical expertise, Craft said. But there's another reason the company is active there. With the depletion of more easily reached deposits in this country, they're about the only game in town.

"Tight gas plays and unconventional plays are very expensive because of the massive fracturing and technology you have to apply," Craft said....

...In many unconventional plays, including the Barnett Shale, oil or gas is spread relatively evenly throughout the formation, rather than the stereotypical situation where explorers hope that they hit that hidden pocket of oil or gas that conveniently bubbles right up to the surface. With the usual provisions for the unknowns involved when drilling down a mile or more, unconventional fields offer relatively predictable results.

Not so in New Mexico's Mancos Shale, an oil shale that Craft describes as "our wildcat play." The company expects to drill its first well by June.

"We normally don't do exploration plays, but it was cheap with 90,000 acres under one lease, which is unusual, and under $200,000 a well" for a dry hole, he said.

"If we drill eight wells and don't do well, we still haven't lost a lot of money," he said."

Another Texas-based company, Tecton Energy, LLC , which specializes in unconventional tight gas basins (unconventional recovery "UCR"), has purchased tens of thousands acres of mineral leases in the pristine Galisteo Basin and Santa Fe County.

Oil Drilling May Harm Water Supply

From the Albuquerque Journal North;

Plans to drill for oil in the lush mountains east of Tierra Amarilla could endanger a vital source of New Mexico's surface waters, a hydrologist said Friday.

Steven Finch Jr. was testifying during state hearings on whether to allow Texas-based Approach Resources to drill 10 exploratory wells in northeastern Rio Arriba County. Whichever way the state Oil Conservation Division decides the issue, the decision will go a long way toward determining whether this water-rich, pristine corner of New Mexico is opened to energy development.

Rio Arriba County officials say drilling in the area is a bad idea, one that would threaten human health and the ecology of the region where the waters run cool, clear and everywhere. The county is asking OCD to revoke the company's four current drilling permits and deny six others that are pending.

Rio Arriba already has some 11,500 oil and gas wells spread across the dusty badlands in the western part of the county. But drilling is virtually unknown east of the Rio Chama, where parts of the mountains receive as much as 38 inches of precipitation annually and generate much of the stream flow that courses through the state. The watershed feeds the Rito de Tierra Amarilla, a major tributary to the Chama, which in turn joins the Rio Grande. more>>>>

Friday, June 20, 2008

Tierra Amarilla residents claim oil company crossed them

Group not forthcoming about well-pad locations, landowners say

Tierra Amarilla landowners protesting proposed wells on their ranches told a state hearing officer in testimony Friday that the oil company, Approach Resources, has not dealt fairly with them concerning the location of well pads and compensation for entering their land.

The landowners and Rio Arriba County are asking the state to cancel four permits it has approved for drilling of exploratory oil wells east of Tierra Amarilla and six pending permit applications because of their potential to harm water and other resources.

The Oil Conservation Division hearing officer, David Brooks, accepted evidence and testimony from the landowners, the county and Approach Resources. He will make a recommendation on the permits to Oil Conservation Division Director Mark Fesmire. more>>>>

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Rio Arriba County official charges oil operator with deception

KSFR Local

Rio Arriba County official charges oil operator with deception

SANTA FE (2008-06-19) -- The planning and zoning director of Rio Arriba County describes how he believes the oil operator deceived state regulators when they applied for drilling permits.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Poll: Most Oppose Drilling in Galisteo

From the quote in the article, "The best hope moving forward, Micou said, is for the county to use the time provided by the drilling moratoriums enacted this year to assess the basin's resources and write an ordinance that will mitigate damage to the environment as much as possible." To be clear, there are certain areas, such as established drilling areas, that mitigation through best practices is the route. There are other areas that oil and gas drilling would not be compatible or consistent with community plans, so then it should not be permitted.

"By Raam Wong
Journal Staff Writer

A major mineral rights owner in the Galisteo Basin has weighed in on the fight over oil and gas drilling in the area, releasing the results of a poll of attitudes about drilling and other issues among Santa Fe County residents.

The results of the poll— conducted for the Ortiz Mining Co. by Albuquerque-based Research and Polling Inc., New Mexico's major political polling firm— showed most of the 400 people surveyed oppose drilling in the Galisteo Basin.

Forty-five percent of respondents said they strongly opposed the drilling plan, while another 16 percent were somewhat opposed. The poll found 27 percent either somewhat or strongly favored allowing drilling in the basin south of Santa Fe.

Plans by Texas-based Tecton Energy to drill in the Galisteo Basin have been met by fierce opposition at public meetings over the past several months.

But Ortiz Mining Company president Anne Russ said the poll results also show that with the right regulations in place, residents could get behind a drilling program.

The survey found 25 percent of respondents would strongly support and 26 percent would somewhat support "the rights of mineral rights owners in Santa Fe County to lease their property for oil and gas drilling" if an ordinance were passed that ensured it was "environmentally sound."

In a news release, the mining company also emphasized that when those polled were asked to name "the three biggest issues or problems facing Santa Fe County today," 32 percent cited water supply, while only 7 percent named oil and gas drilling in the Galisteo Basin— behind other concerns like housing costs, education and growing too much or too fast.

Russ said the company commissioned the poll in order to get the pulse of the community as the county moves forward on drafting comprehensive oil and gas regulations, an effort that Russ says she supports.

"I want to do it right," said Russ, a Kansas City resident whose grandfather acquired the Ortiz land grant in the 1940s. "We trust Tecton's technology, or else we would not have signed the lease with them."

Ortiz Mining has leased about 65,000 acres of mineral rights to Tecton Energy.

State government and the county both imposed moratoriums on drilling the Galisteo Basin after controversy erupted over Tecton's plans.

"Mineral rights owners in Santa Fe County support the moratorium and the work of the county and the state to ensure all safeguards are in place for oil and gas drilling," Ortiz Mining said in a fact sheet provided with the poll results.

Ortiz Mining's decision to poll the public and hire a consulting firm marks the opening of a second front in a campaign to convince the public that energy exploration can protect the environment and be a major boost to the local the economy.

Similar efforts by Tecton to win over the public at a series of town hall meetings earlier this year were attended by huge crowds of opponents who said drilling would ruin property values and viewscapes and could pollute area water supplies.

Russ said her company has a stake in the community, noting that once the oil wells run dry, Ortiz will still own the land. She said she wants to work with all sides if state and county regulators move forward with consideration of the drilling plans.

Johnny Micou of the group Drilling Santa Fe— which has spearheaded opposition to Tecton's plans— said the poll results squared with the thousands of anti-drilling petition signatures he has gathered, as well as the thick binders full of written comments the public has submitted to the county.

Micou questioned whether drilling could truly be, in the words of the poll, "environmentally sound."

"No matter which way you do it, oil and gas is a dirty business," he said.

The best hope moving forward, Micou said, is for the county to use the time provided by the drilling moratoriums enacted this year to assess the basin's resources and write an ordinance that will mitigate damage to the environment as much as possible.

The state's moratorium is slated to end in July, while the county's ban runs until February 2009.

Among the poll's other findings:

  • 47 percent felt the county overall was headed in the right direction
  • 61 percent said the environment should be given priority, even at the risk of limiting the amount of energy supplies the U.S. produces
  • 73 percent strongly supported or somewhat supported the state and county drilling moratoriums.
  • 58 percent said they don't support compensating mineral rights owners for loss of income if drilling is not allowed in the Galisteo Basin.

  • The polling results have a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent."

  • Link to Ortiz Mining Company poll referenced in the article, click here.

    Tuesday, June 17, 2008

    Galisteo basin mineral right owner: 'We do care'

    "Anne Potter Russ owns 60,000 of the 65,000 acres of mineral rights that Tecton Energy has leased in the Galisteo Basin. She inherited them from her grandfather, George William Potter Sr., who bought them in 1947.

    Last fall, when Tecton announced plans to drill for a million barrels of light, sweet crude on the land in south Santa Fe County, area residents reacted swiftly. A public outcry resulted in oil and gas drilling moratoriums at both the state and county levels, and prompted Santa Fe County to start drafting new oil and gas regulations.

    Until recently Russ, 48, has been a silent figure in the drama that has area residents predicting the environmental death of the Galisteo Basin and oil and gas developers threatening lawsuits.

    Now, the perky, blond mother of two who lives in Kansas, where she edits a magazine about philanthropic events, says she wants her voice heard. "What I'm trying to do is put a face on the name of the Ortiz Grant," she said. "My face should represent the fact that I am not a corporate board. I am a person. And I understand the concerns."

    In describing how her grandfather acquired the mineral rights decades ago, Russ said: "It was sort of on a lark. He saw an ad in the paper ... for a sealed bid auction on a parcel of land. He put in the one and only sealed bid and received the mineral and surface rights for the Ortiz Grant."

    Russ said her grandfather was president of a small mining company that mined ores such as iron and copper. But that's not why he bought the land. "The historical significance appealed to him," she said. "He thought: 'Well, yeah, I like that part of the country, and I think it would be kind of fun to own something like that. My family could own a Spanish land grant.' "

    Russ said her grandfather later sold or leased the surface of the land but kept the mineral rights.

    In 2006, Ortiz Mines Inc., a corporation Russ heads, leased those mineral rights to Tecton Energy." more>>>>

    Link to Ortiz Mining Company poll referenced in the article, click here.

    Property owners appeal well sites

    "Beth Sultemeier says she knows the U.S. needs to boost its supply of domestic oil and gas. She's not anti-drilling and wasn't opposed to Texas-based Approach Resources drilling an oil well on land her family owns in the mountains east of Tierra Amarilla. They own the mineral rights, she figured, and the company representative seemed nice on the phone.

    But when she found out the company bulldozed a grove of aspen and a meadow in the family's favorite box canyon last fall to put in a well pad and an open, lined waste pit, she was shocked. "That's not where we had verbally agreed to put the well," Sultemeier said.

    The company's handling of her family's land, she said, has made them the "poster family" for why other landowners in the area are suspicious of dealing with Approach Resources.

    Property owners, including the Sultemeiers, are appealing four wells sites approved by the state Oil Conservation Division in the Tierra Amarilla area. A hearing on the appeal is scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday at the state Oil Conservation Division office.

    Approach Resources of Fort Worth, Texas, which owns more than 90,000 acres of mineral leases in Rio Arriba County, is suing the county in U.S. District Court in an effort to stop Rio Arriba from enforcing a four-month moratorium imposed this spring. The county is expected to approve a new drilling ordinance in August.

    However, Approach Resources contends the power to regulate mineral extractions lies with the state Oil Conservation Division." more>>>>

    Sunday, June 15, 2008

    County gains good guide for drilling-rules quest

    From the Santa Fe New Mexican:

    "When Santa Fe County leaders announced a couple of weeks ago that they'd hired a team of land-use attorneys and planning experts to help write gas- and oil-drilling rules, it must have seemed anti-climactic to the environmentalists and other activists scurrying to fend off the Texas company eyeing the Galisteo Basin:

    Drilling opponents had shown up in droves at public meetings toward the end of last year and the beginning of 2008. They took heart from Gov. Bill Richardson's January announcement of a six-month drilling suspension — and from the county commissioners' February declaration of a year-long moratorium.

    Could the county, by next February, come up with ordinances and regulations tough enough to keep the countryside from being littered with Oil Patch detritus, yet reasonable enough to keep Tecton from taking the county to court — and to the cleaners — for daring to stand in the way of a petroleum industry favored by federal giveaway laws?

    It wasn't looking good — and the picture got worse when another oil company sued Río Arriba County over its moratorium. " more>>>>

    County Drilling Rules Won't Protect Tierra Amarilla

    Albuquerque Journal North
    By Raam Wong

    Journal Staff Writer

    "TIERRA AMARILLA— The dusty badlands of western Rio Arriba County are no stranger to energy development, with some 11,500 wells pumping oil out of the ground and revenue into state and county coffers.

    But when a Texas company announced that it had received state permits to drill here in the lush, pristine mountains around Tierra Amarilla, county officials were caught off guard.

    Fort Worth-based Approach Resources is proposing to drill between eight and ten exploratory wells on this land, hunting for oil within 90,000 acres of mineral rights where little if any has previously been found.

    The county soon realized that its drilling rules were inadequate to protect the region's mountains, valleys and watersheds, where the waters run cool, clear and everywhere.

    One site in particular— an alpine meadow along the scenic byway connecting T.A. and Tres Piedras— has the potential to not only pollute the headwaters of Rito de Tierra Amarilla, county officials maintain, but also scar a landscape that rivals the Valle Vidal for its jaw-dropping beauty.

    "The sites they selected were just the worst sites possible," said county planning and zoning director Gabe Boyle.

    In April, the County Commission scrambled to adopt a moratorium on new drilling, buying the county time to draft an oil and gas ordinance. The county is also appealing the Oil Conservation Division's decision to grant the company four drilling permits. A hearing is scheduled for Friday.

    The controversy echoes a similar battle over the Galisteo Basin in southeastern Santa Fe County. There, another Texas-based company's exploration plans were greeted by mobs of opponents and a drilling moratorium announced by Gov. Bill Richardson at a news conference."

    Friday, June 13, 2008

    Oil drilling plans in Tierra Amarilla worry landowners near water

    Some landowners and Rio Arriba County officials are worried about a Texas company's plans to drill exploratory oil wells in the water-rich mountains east of Tierra Amarilla. Approach Resources Inc., based in Fort Worth, Texas, has state permits to drill four wells in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains off N.M. 64 and has submitted applications for six more wells in the same area.

    John Sena, an Albuquerque resident who owns a ranch near Tierra Amarilla, said one of the two wells the company plans on putting in at his property is within a couple of hundred yards of three natural springs. One planned on a neighboring ranch is within 12 yards of an irrigation ditch, and another is 35 yards from Tierra Amarilla Creek, he said.

    "They have a right to drill, but they sure have totally disregarded the landowner," Sena said. "Their sites are poorly planned and very inconsiderate of the water and the water flow."

    People downstream of Tierra Amarilla should be concerned with the drilling as well, Sena said. Tierra Amarilla Creek flows into the Rio Chama, which joins the Rio Grande." more>>>>

    Action Alert from Viva Rio Arriba

    Oil and Water Don’t Mix

    Rio Arriba County is one of many New Mexico counties fallen victim to the relentless oil and gas industry. Four oil and gas drilling permits have been issued to drill in the historic Tierra Amarilla land grant area east of Chama, NM and another six permits are pending as part of an oil and gas development scheme of a Texas-based oil company, Approach Operating, LLC. Those ten permits are just the start of the development that encompasses over 90,000 acres of the pristine and sensitive Chama watershed. One of the four permits already issued is above 9,900' elevation, very near the absolute top of this beautiful, classic watershed and adjacent to the State designated Scenic Byway on highway 64 between Tierra Amarilla and Tres Piedras. Sadly, Approach has already bulldozed out a drilling site in the mouth of a once beautiful box canyon without the permission of the landowners just five miles south of Tierra Amarilla.

    In answer to an outcry from landowners, acequia associations, concerned citizens, and the Rio Arriba County Commission, the State will hold an adjudicatory hearing on all ten drilling permits, (the four issued and the six pending) on Friday, June 20, 2008 at the Oil Conservation Division offices, 1220 S. St. Francis Drive in Santa Fe at 9 am in Porter Hall on the first floor. The offices are in the Wendell Chino Building.

    All the abundant natural resources of this remaining sub-alpine landscape are threatened by the massive and unavoidable impacts of oil and gas drilling. Environmental degradation begins with the dirty work of building a drilling site, and continue to mount with related road building and pipeline creation, and carry on for another 30 years, the estimated life of the wells, putting all the innerconnected resources at risk. Heavy traffic, frequent trips, day and night operation, water pollution, air pollution, engine and equipment noise all contribute to a continuing disruption of the natural wonderland that now exists in our special places. Oil and gas drilling immediately endangers the eagles and elk, the deer and bear, the Rio Grande Cutthroat trout, and countless other native New Mexican wildlife that reside in these high elevation habitats. New Mexico Department of Game and Fish assert that native cutthroat trout have disappeared in all but seven percent (7%) of the streams above 5,500'. Adding insult to injury, all the streams in the area that Approach intends to drill are above 5,500'.

    It is for the land, water, wildlife, and way-of-life that we ask you to join your fellow community members and speak up in the face of special interests that threaten all that makes New Mexico Enchanted. Stand with your fellow landowners and concerned citizens who would question the State as to why, with only cursory paperwork, it would allow the entire region to be immediately at risk, sacrificing our natural wonders for generations to come. As in the Galisteo Basin and in Mora County New Mexicans are starting to come together and resist by telling our politicians that the risks of oil and gas development are too devastating to compromise our water, our agricultural heritage, our wilderness and wildlife. By coming together as caring New Mexicans, we prove that we will not sit quietly as Mother Nature’s gifts are sacrificed to the rapacious oil and gas industry.

    Please Join us on Friday, June 20, 2008 at the Oil Conservation Division offices, 1220 S. St. Francis Drive in Santa Fe at 9:00 am and protect our future from the threats of oil and gas.

    June 20, next Friday, 9:00 am 1st floor, Porter Hall, Wendell Chino Building, 1220 S. St. Francis Dr., Santa Fe, NM.

    Please attend the meeting to support Rio Arriba County and email your support of Rio Arriba County to emnrd.nmocd@state.nm.usThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .

    For pdf version of the special hearing docket, click here.


    Action Alert From Common Ground United:

    Déjà vu all over again!

    On March 27th, Rio Arriba Board of County Commissioners enacted a 120 day moratorium on private lands within the County. Subsequently, Texas based Approach Resources, Inc. and Approach Resources, LLC filed suit claiming the companies’ civil rights were violated. Approach alleges it has leased over 90,000 acres of the historic Tierra Amarilla Land Grant, the vast majority of which lies in the Chama Watershed, and along the Scenic Byway of highway 64 between Tierra Amarilla and Tres Piedras.

    Rio Arriba County also has filed an application with the Oil Conservation Division (OCD) to challenge the drilling permits of Approach. An OCD hearing in Santa Fe is scheduled for June 20th 9:00AM. Please attend the meeting to support Rio Arriba County and email your support of Rio Arriba County to emnrd.nmocd@state.nm.usThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .

    The County enacted the moratorium out of environmental concerns raised by landowners to draft an oil and gas ordinance as part of the the existing County land use plan that designated the entire county as a Rural Agricultural Distict in 1996. Although Rio Arriba County has more than 11,000 wells in the western portion of the county in the San Juan Basin, Approach wants to drill into the Mancos Shale formation east of Tierra Amarilla.

    As with Santa Fe County, Rio Arriba County needs local regulations based on local geological, environmental, and social conditions to prevent expanded oil and gas production from causing extreme threats to public health, safety, and welfare. Approach Resources, Inc. , according to their website, “We focus on natural gas reserves in tight gas sands and shale gas areas.” Tecton Energy, LLC , a company that specializes in unconventional tight gas basins (unconventional recovery “UCR”) has its sights set on the Galisteo Basin.

    Unconventional operations can entail up to four times as many wells per section (one well per 10 acres, versus one per 40), as much as three times as much soil and vegetation removal for access and pads (29% of the total land surface versus 7%), and many more instances of fracing per well, with a resultant increase in heavy vehicle traffic to each site. Regulations that may have been acceptably effective for the conventional geology of the San Juan Basin are far more destructive when applied without modification to unconventional operations. Local regulation based on local conditions is essential.

    For pdf version of the special hearing docket, click here.

    Oil Conservation Division
    1220 South St. Francis Drive
    Santa Fe, NM 87505
    P: (505) 476-3440

    Common Ground United

    To donate to Common Ground United, click here

    Action Alert from Drilling Mora County

    From Drilling Mora County :

    White Peak Under Attack!

    Attend the State Land Trust Adisory Board meeting this Tuesday, June 17th at 11:00AM.

    Tell Pat Lyons you do not want the State Trust land in Mora and Colfax Counties leased for oil and gas development -- that you do care!

    New Mexico State Land Trust Advisory Board

    Morgan Hall

    310 Old Santa Fe Trail -- Santa Fe, Mexico

    Thursday, June 12, 2008

    Basin Consultant Get Salmonella

    According to the Albuquerque Journal North:
    "Basin Consultant Gets Salmonella

    A California land-use attorney hired by Santa Fe County to consult on the Galisteo Basin oil-and-gas project had to leave Santa Fe this week after being diagnosed with salmonella, according to county public information officer Stephen Ulibarri.

    Robert Freilich had to have his stomach pumped at Christus St. Vincent Medical Center earlier this week and was diagnosed with salmonella, Ulibarri said.

    "We don't know where he ate," Ulibarri said, adding that Freilich was in Santa Fe with his wife and had to be flown home because he was so sick.

    Ulibarri canceled meetings with various community groups this week when Freilich became ill.
    Arturo Delgado, spokesman for the hospital, said the hospital had had only one case of salmonella, on May 31.

    The state Department of Health said Wednesday it was investigating 68 cases of Salmonella Saintpaul in 17 counties of New Mexico. New Mexico health officials said 75 percent of those stricken in the outbreak by May 24 reported having eaten fresh tomatoes.

    The FDA warned people in New Mexico and Texas not to eat raw red plum, Roma or round red tomatoes and to limit consumption to cherry or grape tomatoes, tomatoes with the vine still attached or those grown at home.

    Victims so far have ranged in age from 3 months to 82 years. Ulibarri said Freilich is in his 60s."

    Wednesday, June 11, 2008

    Gas Up

    From the Santa Fe Reporter by Dave Mass:

    "Perhaps most of all, politicians use “energy independence” because it sounds

    The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, controls 35.6 percent of the world’s oil production. The 12 member nations are Algeria, Angola, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela. Gov. Bill Richardson, in his various roles as Department of Energy secretary, UN ambassador, governor of New Mexico and freelance peacemaker and hostage-negotiator, has met with almost all of them.
    a whole heck of a lot better than what it actually means: “Much, much, much more drilling at home.”

    The US can’t wean itself off foreign oil without surrogating it with domestic oil. And domestic oil can’t be drilled without domestic risk, whether it’s the Arctic Wildlife Refuge in Alaska’s Anwar Province or the Galisteo Basin here in Santa Fe County.

    The question, then, is what’s in it for New Mexico, a state that already produces more oil than it consumes? Some might suggest that the rules of economics that state where there is increased supply, lower prices follow, might bode well for local drivers.

    But really, Baca says, any effect of an increase in local production would be slight and indiscernible.

    “The problem with oil is that it’s traded on the commodities market,” Baca says. “I don’t care if you drill it in New Mexico and produce it in New Mexico and you sell it to a refinery here in New Mexico, it’s still the same price as if you would sell it in Houston or you were to ship it up to Utah.”

    When Houston-based Tecton Energy held its public meetings about drilling in the Galisteo Basin last fall, Managing Partner Bill Dirks promised that whatever sweet crude it sucked from the ground would be refined locally into gasoline. That would potentially create jobs and help the economy, but Dirks stopped short of what could have been the deal-clincher for many skeptics. Had he promised relief at the gas pump, perhaps that would have won over at least a handful of converts. It also would have been a lie.

    Instead, the anti-drilling community successfully lobbied Gov. Bill Richardson and the Santa Fe Board of County Commissioners to pass temporary moratoriums on drilling in the Galisteo Basin. Tecton announced it would hold no more public meetings and all press inquiries would be handled by a local public relations agency.

    In his first public communication since January, Dirks confirms via
    e-mail that Tecton has indeed signed an oil contract with the Western Refining (formerly Giant) refinery in Farmington. Tecton, Dirks says, will have no control over gasoline sales. Furthermore, he adds, it doesn’t matter whether Tecton finds 100 barrels or 100 million barrels beneath the Galisteo Basin—New Mexico’s refineries have a fixed production capacity. This means there wouldn’t actually be an increase in local supply.

    “No amount of locally refined Galisteo Basin crude would be able to dramatically lower prices at the pump in Santa Fe,” Dirks writes. “The price will just keep going up with rising global demand unless the US adds major new domestic supply.”

    Dirks says there’s another awful truth. Although allowing Tecton to drill won’t reduce gas prices, denying the company the opportunity to drill does have the potential of raising gas prices. Perception is the driving force on the futures market and not-in-my-backyard activists fuel the “scarcity mentality,” he says.

    “I do believe Santa Fe and other counties to some extent influence the commodity traders when imposing drilling moratoria,” Dirks says. “But you have to put that into context against other fear factors like Nigeria losing 2 million barrels a day capacity because of tribal conflicts, etc., which are much bigger news.”

    And that doesn’t even touch on the obvious: The longer Santa Fe County postpones Tecton’s drilling, the more the company’s potential profit margin grows. Oil prices maybe rising, but the cost of drilling remains unchanged. " full article>>>>

    Reality check: Peak oil and rising consumption means spiraling up of fossil fuel costs. We can not drill our way out of this situation. We need bold leadership to take us down the path of alternative energy sources instead of supporting the irresponsible "drill at any cost" policy.

    Tuesday, June 10, 2008

    Public asked to weigh in on oil and gas drilling

    From the New Mexican:

    " Planners hired to draft Santa Fe County policies for oil and gas production say the process will be an open and inclusive one.

    Bruce Peshoff, one of a group of experts the county has hired, said his firm, Planning Works, will conduct four public workshops and two multiday design sessions designed to encourage public involvement. "It shows (the public) it's not just as simple as saying I don't want this here," Peshoff said to the County Commission on Tuesday.

    Residents will be able to track the planning process, read documents, look at maps and make comments on a Web site that will be devoted to the project, he said.

    Peshoff said the group will focus on general planning decisions, such as what types of growth should be allowed where, in addition to issues specific to hydrocarbon extraction — such as setbacks, noise and dust pollution.

    Peshoff said the planners will develop a "pay as you grow" funding mechanism to ensure new infrastructure is paid for by new developments and not existing taxpayers." more>>>>

    Planning Meeting Update

    KSFR Local

    SF County ramps up oil-gas planning

    SANTA FE (2008-06-10) -- About a half year remains in the period of a moratorium on oil and gas drilling in Santa Fe County, and a new consultant is on board to help county officials create an ordinance to regulate drilling.

    Bruce Peshoff of the Kansas-based firm Planning Works joins planning lawyer Robert Freilich in creating a series of public meetings to arrive at a plan the county commission might adopt.

    They say there will surely be a lawsuit if the county decides to restrict drilling, but that a transparent planning process would likely prevail in court.

    If it turns out drilling is allowed, they say the developers should be required for any extra services, such as fire and law enforcement, as well as roads and water.

    © Copyright 2008, KSFR

    To listen to the KSFR podcast, click here.

    According to Planning Works, Bruce Peshoff, the next meeting will be in about a month. There will be multi-hour workshops for the public to participate in the planning process for the County General Plan, the Galisteo Basin Area Plan, and amendments to the Land Use Code regarding oil and gas activities. There will be a website put up that will have a comment center, feature map, reference center, and a download center. Robert Freilich posited that there will be multi alternative analyses presented to the Santa Fe County Board of Commissioners to select from and then to adopt one. It will be our purpose to have at least one alternative that is acceptable to the citizens of Santa Fe County. This will require due diligence. The role of Robert Freilich is to give legal advice. The role of Planning Works is to work with the County and the public to arrive at a community plan that the community wants. The citizens are the final deciders, not the out-of-state planners or lawyer.

    Another concern of the planning process would be the intended and unintended consequences of a "creation of a special improvement district for the Galisteo Basin."

    Monday, June 9, 2008

    County approves resolution opposing potential oil drilling in Otero, N.M.

    From the El Paso Times ,

    "By Gustavo Reveles Acosta / El Paso Times

    The El Paso Commissioner Court today voted 4 to 1 to approve a resolution opposing the potential drilling for oil and natural gas in the Otero Mesa of New Mexico.

    Commissioners said they supported a movement to seek federal protection of the mesa by the U.S. Congress.

    Commissioner Dan Haggerty voted against the motion, saying the country is currently in a gas crisis.

    Environmentalists told commissioners the mesa is a potential water source for the county."

    State Project Works to Shore Up Ruins Against Further Erosison

    From the Albuquerque Journal,

    Population center

    Sheltered between the Sangre de Cristo and Sandia mountains, the Galisteo Basin became a population center for pueblo communities in the 15th century. The weather was good, and conditions at the time allowed them to dry-farm corn.

    Archaeological evidence shows Pueblo Blanco was one of the region's big, densely populated sites, with about 1,450 rooms, a few plazas and kivas and about 1,500 people at its peak.

    After a couple hundred years, archaeologists believe the region experienced changing weather patterns that caused both drought and flooding.

    The community struggled to cope by constructing earthen dams that formed two or three reservoirs capable of holding several acre feet of water. But perhaps fed-up with erosion and with parts of their community washing away, the residents picked up and moved.

    The traces of what they and other pueblos left behind, like rock art and potsherds, are frequently cited by opponents of a Texas-based company's plans to drill for oil and gas on the basin.

    Congressional legislation in 2004 protected 24 of the archaeological sites, but money for a complete federal study of the basin's historic areas still hasn't been allocated." more>>>>

    Saturday, June 7, 2008

    Oil companies' civil rights vs. community self-determination

    From Goat, A High Country News Blog, "During the past several months, northern New Mexico communities have been embroiled in intense standoffs with oil and gas companies. As we’ve reported, a coalition of ranchers, blue collar workers and professionals succeeded in pressuring the Santa Fe County Commission to enact a year-long moratorium on drilling in the Galisteo Basin in February, coming right on the heels of Gov. Bill Richardson’s six-month ban. And in April, Rio Arriba County Commissioners passed a four month drilling moratorium, halting Texas-based Approach Resources’ plans to “explore” more than 90,000 acres east of Tierra Amarilla.

    According to The Santa Fe New Mexican, rural Mora County passed an indefinite ban on oil and gas drilling last month. In each of these cases, government officials cited the needs for impact assessments and revised regulatory plans as justification for the bans." more>>>>

    Santa Fe County Board of County Commissioners Vote on the Emergency Interim Develpment Oridnance (Oil & Gas Moratiorium)

    Friday, June 6, 2008

    A SocioEconomic Profile, Santa Fe County, New Mexico

    Headwaters Economics SocioEconomic Profile Santa Fe County, New Mexico. Produced by the Economic Profile System (EPS), November 30, 2007. click here>>>>

    Wednesday, June 4, 2008

    County Commission: Holian, Stefanics maintain leads

    From the Santa Fe New Mexican, "Phaedra Haywood | The New Mexican, 6/3/2008

    Santa Fe County is about to make history.

    With 85 of 86 precincts reporting Tuesday night, Santa Fe County Democrats were on the verge of electing a first-ever female majority on the Board of County Commissioners.

    If women are elected in commission Districts 4 and 5, as it appears they will be, the five-member policymaking body will be made up of three women and two men.

    In District 4, retired physicist Kathy Holian had about 41 percent of the votes. Opponents Mark Marquez and Elizabeth "Dolly" Lujan had about 31 percent and 27 percent respectively.

    In the crowded District 5 race, former state Sen. Elizabeth "Liz" Stefanics was clearly ahead of her nearest opponent, Ralph Jaramillo, with about 52 percent of the vote to his 31 percent." more>>>>

    Tuesday, June 3, 2008

    Energy and Self-Determination

    A year ago this past Spring, residents of Santa Fe County first learned of oil and gas exploration by Tecton Energy, LLC in the Galisteo Basin. Quickly, citizens began organizing to protect this fragile ecosystem. The Galisteo Basin is one of the greatest archaeology treasures in the United States and is a wildlife corridor. Its hydrology is very connected and highly permeable. Citizens knew that the Galisteo Basin must be protected from the adverse impacts of oil and gas exploration and development.

    So, by late June 2007, Drilling Santa Fe was formed. There was a sense that the “drill at any cost” policy had gone too far. A line had been crossed. The backdrop was a national and international scene that had put many in near despair. It was the “perfect storm.”

    Over the past year, many organizations formed, not only in Santa Fe County, but also in neighboring counties. Drilling Santa Fe took the stance of pro protections. It joined others in a coalition and as the website of Common Ground United states, “We are committed to the idea that local citizens must have a meaningful role in developing extractive resource development policies and the determining voice in their communities. We are committed to an honest, open, public, and transparent debate and decision-making process that holds public officials accountable for their actions.” Furthermore, we are committed to the idea that any development, whether it be real estate or oil and gas, be consistent and compatible with the community plans. If such developments are inconsistent or incompatible with community plans, then those developments are not to be permitted.

    Now a new group is forming, the Citizens Energy Board. To read about them go to Local Energy News or to go to the video at Bioneers Community Website.

    Links: Local Energy News and Bioneers Community Webiste.

    Sunday, June 1, 2008

    'Hippie' defense red herring for gas derived profits

    From "My View," Ellen Cavalli, Santa Fe New Mexican, "It's a sign of our surreal times when the people trying to protect Santa Fe County from the horrors of drilling are blamed for record-high fuel costs. Never mind that the soaring prices are the fault of the international commodities market and multibillion-dollar energy corporations, industry will have you believe it's all because of those damn hippies.

    As if there's even enough oil in the Galisteo Basin to make a dent in the national supply. The one well that Tecton Energy operated there, before temporarily abandoning, early this year, produced fewer than 50 total barrels of oil in nine months.

    The company probably used more oil to fuel its semi-trucks, generators and drilling rig than it extracted from that dismal failure of a well.

    What the company is really after — and is hoping you won't notice — is natural gas. No offense to those of you who know this, but I've heard and read enough bizarre comments to necessitate adding these lines: Gasoline is a nasty distillate refined from oil. There is very little oil left to extract in New Mexico. What I'm talking about is the "unconventional recovery" of natural gas and probably coal-bed methane. By "gas" I do not mean "gasoline."

    As with oil, there's no guarantee that whatever gas is trapped deep beneath the surface can be released and recovered. The geologic formations in the Galisteo Basin and surrounding areas are so tight, they make any oil and gas operation risky and costly. It's a gamble, but played with human lives, not poker chips." more>>>>

    County expects new drilling rules by Februrary

    According to the Santa Fe New Mexican,

    "As state's six-month ban nears expiration, officials turn to professionals for help drafting new regulations

    The unexpected arrival of oil and gas developers in Santa Fe County last summer sparked a spasm of activity. Worried citizens flocked to anti-drilling meetings and formed activist groups. Santa Fe County government officials and staff hurried to evaluate existing mining regulations and consider new ones.

    In January, Gov. Bill Richardson issued a six-month ban on drilling in the Galisteo Basin area. Santa Fe County followed with a yearlong moratorium aimed at giving the county time to prepare for the unfamiliar type of development.

    Both actions gave the community time to regroup.

    Now, as Richardson's six-month ban nears its end, Santa Fe County is beginning a more methodical approach to preparing for hydrocarbon extraction. It has hired a team of land-use attorneys and planners to help write new oil and gas regulations as well as a plan for the Galisteo area, which has been targeted for oil development by the Houston-based drilling company Tecton Energy." more>>>>