Sunday, June 15, 2008

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."

No comments:

Post a Comment