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.

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