Monday, December 21, 2009

(San Miguel) County Wants Drilling Rules

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County Wants Drilling Rules

Albuquerque Journal--> By Jessica Dyer
Journal Staff Writer

"San Miguel County officials know their county's energy-generating possibilities will soon spark interest, and they want to be prepared for all comers.

After watching other northern New Mexico communities race to get drilling ordinances in place with prospectors already at the door, San Miguel officials are getting proactive. The County Commission on Jan. 12 will vote on a proposed one-year moratorium on applications for permits to explore or excavate for oil, gas or geothermal energy. County attorney Jesus Lopez said the moratorium will allow the county time to draft an up-to-date and more thorough drilling ordinance than the one now in place.

The current ordinance — adopted in 1986 — requires a county permit for any drilling activity but has been deemed by officials as inadequate. Lopez said there are no drilling applications through the county now but "because it's happened in Rio Arriba and Santa Fe, we figured it's right around the corner and we might as well get on it."

Santa Fe County enacted its own drilling ordinance last year, while Rio Arriba County adopted its ordinance last spring.

County Manager Les Montoya said the move was prompted at least in part by news that the Santa Fe Opera recently had leased out 27,000 acres of mineral rights in Mora and San Miguel counties for oil and gas drilling. The rights were donated to the opera by a benefactor.

"We kept hearing this and that, so we thought we better look at the ordinance," Montoya said.
County commission chairman David Salazar said the county's present regulations are minimal when it comes to drilling and don't focus enough on safety — especially on the safety of the county's water supply.

"Water is one of the major things we have problems with," he said. "Any contamination would really hurt our county."

Montoya said having enough good water is an ongoing issue within the county. The city of Las Vegas, he said, has faced "very strict" water conservation ordinances for most of the last decade because its relies so heavily on surface runoff that hasn't been particularly plentiful.

"We have limited supplies at this point, and we need to do what's necessary to ensure the quality and quantity," he said." More>>>>

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