Tuesday, March 31, 2009

State Engineer Gains Water Authority

Albuquerque Journal

By Sean Olson
Journal Staff Writer

"A new law grants the Office of the State Engineer the authority to regulate deep water wells in New Mexico for the first time, but it's unable to curb the appropriation of more than a million acre feet of water to groups that may not face regulation.

Gov. Bill Richardson signed House Bill 19 into law Monday morning, saying it "gives the state engineer long overdue jurisdiction" over water wells drilled below 2,500 feet.

The bill's sponsor, Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, said at the signing that some of the damage that the bill was trying to avert has already been done. More than 600,000 acre-feet per year — six times what metro Albuquerque used in 2008 — of the deep water was appropriated through notifications to the Office of the State Engineer in the six weeks between the time the House approved the bill and the time it appeared before the Senate, Stewart said.

"Some say this is sort of like closing the barn door after all the horses have escaped," she said.

Richardson also mentioned the run on claiming the deep water, which State Engineer John D'Antonio had called a "free-for-all" before the new law took effect Monday. Richardson said the bill was good for stopping some of the more ambitious and speculative claims on the deep water, such as a Lion's Gate Water attempt to claim all of the brackish water beneath New Mexico — including all deep water under federal, state and private land.

Other companies, with titles like The Not So Dead Sea LLC and Grounded & Polite LLC, put in appropriations for thousands of acre-feet in counties all over the state just before and during the legislative session. Development companies SunCal Cos. and Mesa del Sol also put in notifications to claim some of the water beneath Bernalillo County." More (AJ subscription required) >>>>

New law allows regulation of deep aquifers

This image is of the Atrisco Aquifer on Albuquerque's West Side

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - State government has gained the power to regulate the use of salty water in deep aquifers because of a new law.

Gov. Bill Richardson signed legislation into law on Monday that will help the state control a rush by real estate developers to potentially tap into aquifers at least 2,500 feet deep." More>>>>

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Oil Conservation Division Pit Rule Alert - OGAP

EARTHWORKS Oil & Gas Accountability Project
March 28, 2009

Hello everyone -

As we reported earlier this month, Governor Richardson has proposed amendments to the state’s new Pit Rule.

The public hearing on these amendments will be:

April 2, 2009
9:00 am
Porter Hall
1220 South St. Francis Drive
Santa Fe, New Mexico


OGAP, New Mexico Citizens for Clean Air and Water and the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, representatives on Governor Richardson’s Pit Rule Task Force - and official parties to the lengthy rulemaking process in 2007 and 2008 - will urge the state not to rollback standards that currently limit the toxicity level of wastes that are buried on oil and gas well sites throughout New Mexico. While we are gravely concerned with the process by which the proposed amendments to the Pit Rule were generated, we are most concerned with the proposal to “increase the chloride waste standard for closure of temporary pits or drying pads by on-site trench burial from 250 milligrams per liter (mg/l) to the greater of 3000 mg/l.” It is a shame the proposed Pit Rule changes had no stakeholder input other than industry input and were not subject to any meaningful public discussion. The three organizations filed a motion to continue/delay the hearing for 30 days in order to give us more time to prepare and provide technical information given that everyone has been consumed with the Legislative Session which just ended a week ago. We’ve heard that our motion will be denied and we should receive official notice of that decision shortly. The Governor has proposed six amendments to the Pit Rule. For full detail on the six proposals, please click on the link below. The OGAP website is chock full of information on the Pit Rule hearing, chemicals used in drilling operations, etc. A link to that webpage is provided below as well.




Common Ground United

Museum acquires photo collection

Santa Fe New Mexican

"A limited-edition portfolio of photographs of the Galisteo Basin was donated to the Palace of the Governors Archives by the McCune Charitable Foundation and Verve Gallery.

The portfolios, priced at $6,000, include 27 photographs, sized 11 inches by 17 inches, of the basin defined by the 55-mile-long Galisteo River.

The project, created by Mary Anne Redding, curator of photography at the Palace of the Governors, and Rixon Reed, director of the Photo-eye Gallery, is an expression of opposition to plans by a Texas-based energy company to drill for oil and gas in the Galisteo Basin. Fifty percent of the money raised from the sale of the boxed-set edition is being donated to Drilling Santa Fe, the New Mexico Environmental Law Center and the Oil & Gas Accountability Project.

Photographs from the project are available in an online gallery at www.GalisteoBasinPhotoProject.com. "

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Mark Fesmire of the Oil Conservation Division (OCD) on KSFR


"State oil and gas regulators say their hands are tied by a state Supreme Court ruling that prevents them from directly imposing fines when developers violate state drilling rules."

Part of At Noon for March 26. http://is.gd/p8y2

NM high court ruling a blow to regulating oil, gas

By DEBORAH BAKER , 03.25.09, 06:20 PM EDT

"New Mexico was dealt a blow to its oversight of the oil and gas industry with the state Supreme Court's recent ruling that a regulatory division may not directly impose penalties on operators.

The high court said the Oil Conservation Division must instead go through the attorney general, who would have to sue to try to collect penalties for alleged violations of regulations or the law.

The lawsuits would have to be filed in the counties where the alleged violations occurred.

Mark Fesmire, director of the division, said that will make it more difficult, time-consuming and costly to regulate oil and gas activity.

"We'll go back to where the oil and gas industry is basically unregulated in New Mexico," he said. "And if we do that, more and more counties are going to do what Santa Fe County did."

The county enacted an ordinance in December that the industry complained amounted to a drilling moratorium." More>>>>

Friday, March 20, 2009

Richard Cook files bid to drill near city

"Española businessman Richard Cook appears to be making a bid to drill deep-water wells on his land west of Santa Fe near Las Campanas.

A notice of intent to drill four wells — at least 2,500-feet deep — on private land off N.M. 599 near the state Department of Game and Fish offices, was filed with the state engineer this month and published in The New Mexican March 9.

Each well could pump up to 25,000 acre-feet of water — billions of gallons — annually.

The Caja del Rio Partnership, the company that filed the notice, is not registered with the Public Regulation Commission.

The address provided on the drilling notice, however, matches the address for other PRC-registered businesses and county-recorded properties belonging to Richard P. Cook. Cook owns several other registered businesses in real estate, mining, concrete and construction.

A company with a similar name — Caja Del Rio, LLC — is registered with the state commission but is listed as inactive, with no address given.

Cook did not return calls to his home or office seeking comment.

The notice is among a slew of similar ones filed with the state engineer in the last year as developers seek to secure a relatively unregulated new source of water around the state. Deep aquifers beginning 2,500 feet below the surface or deeper, and containing brackish water, can be pumped without a permit from the state engineer. Developers had ignored the water until recently because it was undrinkable. Modern technology for treating salty water to drinking water standards, coupled with the rising value of water, has companies interested in tapping the deep aquifers." More>>>>

Friday, March 6, 2009

Senate Bill 394 Tabled (unofficially)

Senate Bill 394 is tabled unofficially.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Senate Bill 394

Posted at Common Ground United Roundhouse 2009:

Alert! Calls Needed Today on SB 394!EARTHWORKS’
Oil & Gas Accountability Project
Action Alert

Take Action Now!
Please make your calls today! (See Committee Member List Below)


Senate Bill 394
Sponsored by: Senator Bill Sharer (R-Farmington)
Is scheduled to be heard in the: Senate Corporations and Transportation Committee

March 6, 2009
2:00 pm (or 1/2 hour after Senate adjourns from the floor)
Room 311
State Capitol Building
Santa Fe, New Mexico

• Urge legislators to vote NO on Senate Bill 394.

Counties with oil and gas and other types of mineral development bear the most impact and should be recipients of severance tax funds – regardless of the regulations they have in place! One of the core ideas behind “severance” taxes is to give something back to the regions that have minerals that have been “severed” - or “extracted” from the earth. Once they are gone, they are gone. Severance taxes provide communities with an opportunity to develop projects and programs that will have a lasting legacy. This bill appears to be an attempt to punish counties that have adopted (or are considering adopting) common sense regulations that prevent and reduce the impacts caused by oil and gas development.

The Senate Bill 394 Fiscal Impact Report states:

“Senate Bill 394 does not contain an appropriation, but according to the ENMRD, could have significant long-term effects on capital projects that are financed by Severance Tax Bonds.

SB 394 requires three commissions to conduct annual hearings in addition to their existing duties, with said hearings involving a state-wide survey and evaluation of municipal and county ordinances. This kind of annual review and hearing process is likely to involve significant preparation by not only the commissions, but also by the EMNRD’s legal staff and the staff of the Oil Conservation Division (OCD) and Mining and Minerals Division (MMD). Additional costs will be associated with this added work and the materials necessary to present the matters for hearing. The hearings themselves will also involve additional costs for court reporters and transcripts, possible witness fees, and additional time spent.

If a determination is made that the standard/threshold has been met, this legislation would require that all projects in a given municipality or county be prohibited from reaping the benefits of severance tax bonds, which could have a significant impact on those projects. However, the language establishing the standard is too unclear for consistent and fair implementation. The language is not clear regarding whether to calculate the fifty-percent-or-greater in a cumulative fashion or on an ordinance-by-ordinance basis. For instance, if a project is located in county or municipality that has a number of “zoning or other ordinances” that have been determined to have an impact on the cost of doing business for the “extractive industries,” is the designated, evaluating commission to look at each separate ordinance, individually, and make a determination as to each separately regarding whether it has the requisite impact on cost of operations? Or, are the commissions to look at the collective, cumulative effect of all such identified ordinances, and determine if they cumulatively have the requisite impact on cost of operations?

Similarly, if the commissions are to look at them on a one by one basis, is there the potential for this to lead to inaccuracies where, when viewed together, the cumulative impact of all applicable ordinances together might have a different net effect on cost of operations than if each is simply viewed alone? Without further specification regarding how the evaluation is to be conducted, what all should be considered and in what fashion, there are significant issues with regard to implementing this proposed legislation.”


Senate Bill 394 – bill language:

Senate Bill 394 – Fiscal Impact Report:

Committee Members:
Please contact these legislators today! For a full list of committee members:


If you only have time to make a few calls, call:

Senator Phil Griego
senatorgriego@yahoo.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Senator Lynda Lovejoy
lynda.lovejoy@nmlegis.govThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Senator Timothy Keller
tk@timkellerfornewmexico.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Senator George Munoz
munozgeo@gmail.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Senator John Sapien
john.sapien@nmlegis.govThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Senator David Ulibarri
david.ulibarri@nmlegis.govThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Message from:
Gwen Lachelt, Director
Oil & Gas Accountability Project
P.O. Box 1102
863 1/2 Main Avenue
Durango, Colorado 81302
970-259-3353; Fax: 970-259-7514
Cell: 505-469-0380
gwen@ogap.orgThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Legal veil shrouds LLCs seeking water

Limited liability companies protected from revealing reasons for drilling

"Want to protect yourself from public scrutiny in your business affairs?

Establish a limited liability company.

Whether it is New Mexico or most of the other 50 states, individuals or partners who form limited liability companies are required to provide very little information to either government agencies, oversight commissions or the public.

Take the nice-sounding company Grounded and Polite, LLC.

It shares several things in common with five other LLC companies formed on the same day last year with equally nice-sounding names: Harmony Wells, San Juan Peaks, Monument Valley and Phoenix & Avriel.

All six want to drill wells deeper than 2,500 feet on state trust land, tapping briny water that is beyond the jurisdiction of the state's water regulator. All six want to pump out millions of gallons, according to notices of intent to drill filed with the state engineer.

If anyone knows who owns the companies or what they intend to do with the water, they aren't talking publicly about it.

The information provided to the New Mexico Corporations Commission lists the purpose as "not required." A lot of LLCs use that phrase.

The mailing address is the same for all six: 201 Third St. NW, Suite 1850 in Albuquerque, which is the address of the companies' organizer, Michelle Henrie of the Atkinson and Thal law firm.

Henrie is a water attorney who also specializes in planning and land use, real-estate, natural-resource and environmental law, according to Lawyers.com. She's a member of the New Mexico State Bar, the Navajo Nation Bar and the American Bar Association.

Henrie said she asked the owners of the companies if they would allow her to release any names or information about them. "Unfortunately," she said, "I cannot say anything at this time."' More>>>>

Silver Lining: Cloud seeders push New Mexico to solve its water woes by making rain

Santa Fe Reporter

By: Corey Pein 03/03/2009

"In the skies near the border of Texas and New Mexico, a small white airplane speeds toward a promising cloud. A young pilot handles the controls. He must work quickly.

The plane’s wings each carry a row of 24 flares. They look like shotgun shells. (In fact, the company that sells the casings also makes police ammo.) Each flare costs $35 to manufacture, but carries invaluable potential.

The flares are packed with silver iodide, a chemical that looks like a yellowish powder. Under the microscope, it looks like an ice crystal. The resemblance is significant.

The flares alight, and a trail of smoke follows the plane through the cloud. Minutes pass, and the pilot watches the cloud swell. Miles away on the ground, a meteorologist monitors the situation on a TITAN radar screen, the kind used by television weathermen.

"...Silver iodide is more harmful to fish and worms and germs than it is to people and livestock. Still, it doesn’t sound too appetizing. “I wouldn’t drink a glass of it,” Silber says.

In 1977, the US Department of Agriculture got around to studying the possible effects on health from cloud seeding. Researchers bought 20 yearling ewes and dosed them with varying levels of silver iodide. Two sheep died after gel capsules containing the chemical broke in their mouths. But in the end, none of the sheep developed signs of disease from poisoning.

The USDA concluded the chemicals “used in weather modification operations are not likely to induce overt toxic effects in livestock.” However, “continuous cloud seeding operations…may contaminate range forages and grain or hay crops” and increase the overall amount of silver iodide present in the food chain.

Given all the unknowns—from chemical accumulations to unforeseen side-effects—shouldn’t the seeders worry about liabilities?

Silber smiles. “Since you can’t prove it works, you can’t prove it’ll hurt you,” he says." More>>>>

Domestic well issues plague state

"Does the pumping of domestic wells reduce flows in the Rio Grande and surrounding aquifers?

Depends on who you ask.

At the annual gathering Tuesday of water geek scientists and policy wonks at the Española Basin Technical Advisory Group, the domestic well impact question was debated in a Santa Fe Community College banquet room and out in the hallway during breaks. The group meets to share research and talk about water management decisions in the Española Basin, which encompasses portions of Santa Fe, Rio Arriba and Los Alamos counties.

Jack Frost, a hydrologist with the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer, told the group that domestic wells haven't caused "detectable" depletions along the Rio Grande, though there is the chance for cumulative impacts at some point as more wells are added.

Some geohydrologists listening to the presentation said the impact of domestic wells on aquifers and surface water flows depends on where and how many wells are drilled and where the water is coming from. A lot of that remains largely unknown in a state where less then 25 percent of the underground aquifers have been completely mapped." More>>>>

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

House Bill 219 Tabled

The House Judiciary Committee tabled House Bill 219.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Locals speak out on Galisteo Basin land-use policies

"Pink-bellied clouds chased the last band of sunshine behind a horizon of purple mountains in the Galisteo Basin last Monday. Then darkness descended and the stars came out, pinpricks of light in the inky sky above the Galisteo Community Center. Inside, before a standing room only crowd, Santa Fe County planner Jack Kolkmeyer jokingly took credit for the spectacular sunset.

But the people who gathered that night and the following two nights were serious about the county's obligation to protect the night skies and scenic views of the Galisteo Basin.

Several hundred people from the communities of Galisteo, Lamy, Golden, Silverado, San Marcos, Madrid and Cerrillos filled the Galisteo Community Center last week to participate in the county's efforts to gather public input that will shape future land-use policies. " More>>>>

Sunday, March 1, 2009

House Bill 219 goes to the House Judiciary Committee

House Bill 219 goes before the House Judiciary Committee

Monday, March 2, 2009 - - Room 309