Sunday, February 28, 2010

Governor's pollution bills fall short

Susan Montoya Bryan | The Associated Press
Posted: Saturday, February 27, 2010

"Gov. Bill Richardson's 30-day legislative session didn't go exactly as planned.

With the end of his second four-year term looming, this was his last chance to push through the New Mexico Legislature an environmental agenda aimed at cracking down on polluters and the emissions blamed for global warming.

Lawmakers didn't play along.

"It's disappointing," said Sarah Cottrell, the governor's energy adviser.

Richardson wanted to give state regulators the power to deny new permits or revoke existing permits after a track record of air quality violations. State laws that govern water, solid waste and hazardous materials already include a so-called bad actor clause, but the air quality act does not.

The Democrat governor also took aim at greenhouse gas emissions with legislation that would have established the groundwork for a future cap-and-trade program.

The measure would have allowed the Environmental Improvement Board, an unelected body appointed by the governor, to establish rules for early reduction credits, offsets and the reporting of greenhouse gas emissions for electricity imported to New Mexico.

The bad actor bill failed by a single vote, and the emissions measure languished in committee after drawing fierce opposition from an army of lobbyists, utilities, small-business owners, agricultural interests and some residents.

The Senate also rejected one of Richardson's nominees to the Environmental Improvement Board.

However, the governor has said his administration will not abandon plans for adopting environmentally friendly policies.

"For those who think I am going to retreat from protecting the environment, clean air ... they are mistaken," Richardson said at a Feb. 16 news conference.

It's up for debate whether the measures failed because lawmakers were overwhelmed with the state's budget crisis or because they were concerned about giving more power to the executive branch.

Rep. Brian Egolf, a Santa Fe Democrat who sits on the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee, chalked it up to politics.

"I think the Republicans are focusing on a boogeyman of convenience, and that's the Environmental Improvement Board. They are using that as an excuse to derail some stuff that's pretty commonsense and pretty important for regular folks," Egolf said. " More>>>>

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Hearing to look into gas emissions

On Special Assignment

Updated: Friday, 26 Feb 2010, 11:11 PM MST
Published : Friday, 26 Feb 2010, 11:11 PM MST

"SANTA FE (KRQE) - On Monday, the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board will hold a public hearing on a petition to reduce the level of greenhouse gas emissions in New Mexico to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and it could impact just about every New Mexican.

To turn on the lights, many New Mexicans depend on coal fired electric plants. The San Juan generating plant in Waterflow, N.M. generates most of PNM’s electricity, but like all coal fired plants it also generates pollution.

“We're at a crossroads where we can continue going down the path we've been on, or we can chart a new direction for energy in the state,” family practice physician John Fogarty said.

Fogarty is the President of New Energy Economy, a Santa Fe based non-profit organization petitioning the state Environmental Improvement Board to cap those greenhouse gas emissions.

“It's a really important time where congress is failing to act and it's incumbent on states to step up to the plate and address this really critical issue that is going to affect our children and future generations,” Fogarty said.

He believes the change, capping carbon emissions, will help the state's economy by unleashing capital investment in alternative energy.

“This is just a devastating regulatory action,” Jason Sandel said.

Sandel runs Aztec Well Servicing, a company that drills for natural gas and services the equipment.

“It's essentially regulations gone wild,” he said."' More>>>>

Friday, February 26, 2010

Land Swap Tension Rises Lyons Faces Off With Opposition

The New Mexico State Land Office (SLO) headed by Pat Lyons has yet another controversy besides leasing State lands/minerals in fragile ecosystems of frontier areas such as the Las Vegas Basin for exploratory drilling or "wildcatting," the White Peak land swap issue has become another hot topic.

Albuquerque Journal North

By Phil Parker
Journal Staff Writer

"The heat generated over some White Peak land swaps was dialed up another notch Thursday with developments on three fronts.

  • The State Land Office claimed that the Attorney General's Office is trying to limit the land commissioner's legal discretion and authority in challenging the land deal. This contention came in a response to an Attorney General petition in the New Mexico Supreme Court attempting to block the land exchanges.
  • Land Commissioner Patrick Lyons faced the New Mexico State Game Commission and "war-painted" hunters vehemently opposed to the deal.
  • The League of United Latin American Citizens filed a brief in support of the Attorney General's efforts in the Supreme Court, raising the issue of historic land grants given to Spanish settlers. " More>>>>
Related post:

Amid strife, first Whites Peak land swap closes

Drilling Could Threaten Drinking Water

Food Safety News

fracking-featured.jpgHowever, the drilling technique used to unlock the gas, called hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," has become a serious point of contention.

Pioneered by Halliburton in the 1940s, fracking is a common process used by oil and gas companies to retrieve tough-to-get reserves. Much like bubbles in carbonated soda, natural gas exists in bubbles deep underground. Getting to these pockets involves injecting millions of gallons of water, sand, and chemicals into the ground to crack open these bubbles, allowing the gas or oil to flow to the surface.

While drilling companies are not required to disclose exactly what chemicals they use, experts agree that benzene, formaldehyde, methanol, and xylene, among others, are some of the most commonly used. All of these substances are toxic in water at very low levels.

Although fracking is the most efficient and widespread drilling method, used in about 90 percent of U.S. oil and gas wells, environmentalists and health advocates have raised concerns about potential health risks associated with the chemicals used in fracking.

According to a report released in November 2009 by Environment Texas, a research and policy group, gas drilling can pollute and sometimes poison clean water sources.

"Fluid that is left behind (some studies estimate that 91 percent of injected fluid never returns to the surface) after the fracking process could find its way to drinking water," the report says, "and drilling into these formations can create pathways by which fluids or natural gas itself can find its way into water supplies."

The protests of advocacy groups and concerned citizens have sparked a national debate.

Does oil and well drilling contaminate drinking water?

People living near drilling facilities in states like Pennsylvania, Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming seem to think the answer is yes." More>>>>

See related posts:

"Oil and gas well drilling does not taint drinking water"-- Really?

Congress to Investigate Safety of Natural Gas Drilling Practice Known as Hydraulic Fracturing

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sharon Wilson (aka, TXsharon) at Bluedaze to Head Texas Oil & Gas Accountability Project

Congratulations to Sharon Wilson (aka, TXsharon) of the stellar blog, Bluedaze, to head the newly formed Texas Oil & Gas Accountability Project.

From Bluedaze:

Texas Oil & Gas Accountability Project Launches,
Releases Oil & Gas Development Best Practices Platform

EARTHWORKS formally launched its Texas Oil & Gas Accountability Project (OGAP) via telephone conference on today at 1:00 p.m. Central Standard Time. At the launch, Texas OGAP will release its campaign platform, DRILL-RIGHT TEXAS: Best Oil & Gas Development Practices for Texas. We will also introduce the lead Texas OGAP Organizer, Sharon Wilson, along with other key experts on the impacts of oil and gas development on health, communities and the environment. The new EARTHWORKS campaign will work throughout Texas to prevent and minimize the impacts caused by energy development.

EARTHWORKS' nationally-recognized Oil & Gas Accountability Project was created in 1999 to work with communities to prevent and reduce the impacts caused by energy development. In its first decade, OGAP boldly challenged the notion that natural gas is clean energy by exposing the industry practice of hydraulic fracturing, the widespread use of toxic drilling chemicals and the oil and gas industry's sweeping exemptions from U.S. environmental laws. OGAP has built a national network of diverse organizations addressing drilling issues and has pushed for the passage of precedent-setting laws and regulations protecting landowner rights, special places and public health from Alaska to New Mexico and beyond. OGAP's 2005 publication, Oil and Gas at Your Door? A Landowner's Guide to Oil and Gas Development, is considered the preeminent resource for landowners and communities facing drilling in their backyards.

EARTHWORKS staff and board members have worked with Texans since the Barnett Shale drilling boom sparked citizens to demand greater oversight of oil and gas activities in the region. For the past year, we've been coordinating with a volunteer steering committee of rural and urban residents to form Texas OGAP and develop DRILL-RIGHT TEXAS.

Working with concerned Texas citizens, Wilma Subra, a chemist and MacArthur Genius Award recipient, who is also a board member of EARTHWORKS, recently conducted a health survey in DISH, Texas, and presented the results to the DISH Town Board and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ): This work has already resulted in a new TCEQ same-day response policy to odor complaints from oil and gas facilities. Citizen pressure has also successfully persuaded the agency to begun air quality monitoring in the Fort Worth region, where over 1,100 wells have been drilled within city limits.

Texas OGAP will work with communities statewide to prevent and minimize the impacts caused by energy development. EARTHWORKS has 27,000 members nationwide, and maintains offices in California, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Texas and Washington, D.C.

Watch for more information. "

New Group to Watchdog Texas Drilling Industry

A New Watchdog for Texas' Shale Gas Drilling Industry

Is gas drilling waste radioactive?

Part I in a series

by Sharon Corderman
Free Press-Courier
Published: Wednesday, February 24, 2010 2:14 PM CST

'“It is especially important to understand the potential radioactivity of wastes that may be disposed of in areas that are located close to residences or public facilities such as schools,” wrote Lisa Sumi in a May 2008 report prepared for the Oil & Gas Accountability Project. “For example,” she continued, “during drilling, there may be a large volume of radioactive Marcellus shale rock removed (in other words, the drill cuttings), especially from horizontally drilled wells. If these rock wastes are disposed of by on-site burial or land-spreading, the radioactivity may become an issue for those living nearby. Radioactive wastes should be taken to a facility that is designed to handle low-level radioactive waste.” ' More>>>>

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

(NM Leg.) Special session delayed until Monday

Associated Press - February 23, 2010 4:25 PM ET

"SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - Gov. Bill Richardson says he has pushed the start of a special legislative session back until Monday.

The governor says he had requests from House and Senate leaders for more time to negotiate spending cuts and tax increases before they resume debate over a state budget.

Richardson says he feels the state needs a budget sooner than later despite concerns by some lawmakers about waiting for updated revenue projections.

Democrat Sen. John Arthur Smith of Deming says he believes New Mexico's revenue growth will be half of the projected 6 percent lawmakers assumed when hammering out a failed budget proposal during the regular session.

The special session was to have begun Wednesday.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed."

Sierra Club v. Sierra Club: "Natural Gas As A Climate Fix Sparks Friction"


February 23, 2010

Listen to the Story

[4 min 15 sec]

February 23, 2010

"Some local chapters of environmental groups find themselves battling their national leadership over issues like natural gas. The national groups see natural gas as a less-harmful alternative to coal. But local groups fear the damage that gas production could bring to their fresh water and landscapes."

See related post:

Environmentalists debate whether natural gas is safer for the environment

Congress to Investigate Safety of Natural Gas Drilling Practice Known as Hydraulic Fracturing


"The top Democrats on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce have asked eight oil-field companies to disclose the chemicals they’ve used and the wells they’ve drilled in over the past four years. Last week, Waxman also revealed two of the largest gas drilling companies have pumped hundreds of thousands of gallons of diesel-based fluids into the ground in violation of a voluntary agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency. [includes rush transcript]


Josh Fox, director of GasLand. Won Special Jury Prize for Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival. In GasLand, Josh Fox travels across the United States to meet people whose lives have been impacted by natural gas drilling.

Lisa Bracken, lives on a wildlife sanctuary near Divide Creek in Colorado. Divide Creek suffered environmental damage in a blowout cause by natural gas drilling. She appears in GasLand.

Joe Levine, co-founder of the groups Damascus Citizens for Sustainability and NY-H2O, which oppose the gas drilling.

Rush Transcript

This transcript is available free of charge. However, donations help us provide closed captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing on our TV broadcast. Thank you for your generous contribution.
Donate - $25, $50, $100, More..."

Monday, February 22, 2010

NMELC: GHG Emission Case Gets Attention

New Mexico Environmental Law Center

February 22, 2010

"On January 13, 2010, PNM, El Paso Electric Co., the NM Oil and Gas Assoc., five additional statewide trade groups and three state legislators filed a lawsuit in state district court in Lovington against the NM Environmental Improvement Board (EIB). The suit attempts to prevent the Board, an executive agency, from evaluating the greenhouse gas petition that we submitted on behalf of New Energy Economy in 2008.

"PNM and its allies would rather throw money at lawyers and publicists than work in good faith towards reducing New Mexico's share of greenhouse gas emissions," says Staff Attorney Bruce Frederick. "This time, they've filed a meritless lawsuit in the middle of the 'oil patch' with the obvious hope of gaining a 'hometown' advantage." However, Frederick is confident that the case will be thrown out because "the 'Separation of Powers' doctrine written into our Constitution forbids Courts from interfering with executive decisionmaking."

For the past year, PNM and its co-plaintiffs have been working furiously to defeat our petition. Here's why: our client wants New Mexico to reduce statewide carbon emissions by 25% from 1990 levels by 2020. As the promise of strong federal legislation fades, and the U.S. EPA begins a long road towards adopting federal regulations, state-level action seems the most promising avenue by which to address the threat of climate change.

An EIB hearing to collect public comments will be held on March 1 in Santa Fe at the State Personnel Office Auditorium, Willie Ortiz Building, 2600 Cerrillos Road, Santa Fe. The meeting will begin at 10am, (view the EIB hearing agenda).

Your input is important! But check back with our website before March 1, in case the Lovington judge puts a hold on the hearing...

- Shelbie Knox, Development Officer

Get more info and filed documents on the Greenhouse Gas Emission Caps case"

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Film (Split Estate) explores drilling's hidden impact

Veronica M. Cruz | The New Mexican
Posted: Saturday, February 20, 2010

"It's been nearly two years since Tecton Energy abandoned its plans to drill in the Galisteo Basin. But for communities in the Rocky Mountain region and several other states around the country, the battle between landowners and natural gas and oil companies is far from over.

In the documentary Split Estate, producer/director Debra Anderson, who lives in Santa Fe, focuses on the detrimental effects of the controversial deals that she says can wreak havoc on the environment and pose health threats to people in areas where drilling occurs.

"It was somewhat invisible because a lot of the big drilling is happening in big, unpopulated places," said Anderson in a telephone interview. "Then they started to creep into residential areas. A lot of people I talked to had been trying to get attention to this issue for a while."

Her film, which took three years to complete, focuses on the San Juan Basin in Northern New Mexico and Garfield County, Colo., and is narrated by fellow Santa Fean Ali McGraw." More>>>>



What: Screening of Split Estate
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Where: Center for Contemporary Arts, 1050 Old Pecos Trail
Cost: $9.50; seniors, students and military, $8.50
For more information:

Saturday, February 20, 2010

"Oil and gas well drilling does not taint drinking water"-- Really?

By Other Voices

February 20, 2010, 3:48AM

Oil and gas industry advocate letter:

"Michael Scott's article Sunday ("Family says gas well tainted its water, but state disagrees" poses a simple, straightforward question: "Does oil and gas well drilling really threaten our drinking water?"

The simple and straightforward answer is this: It does not. And while Scott references an exhaustive 2004 Environmental Protection Agency report that confirmed that fracturing does not threaten groundwater, Plain Dealer readers should also be aware that earlier this week, a top EPA drinking-water official stated the same thing -- suggesting further that states, and not the federal government, are best positioned to regulate this critical technology in a way that balances the imperative of responsible energy exploration with the safeguarding of our environment.

As for the claims made by some that the fracturing process requires "diesel fuel" to be injected underground, the reality is actually quite the opposite. The fluids used in the process are made of 99.5 percent water and sand -- with the slight remainder comprised of household materials you're just as likely to find in the kitchen cupboard and beneath the kitchen sink. As for that diesel fuel -- sure, the trucks may run on it, but you won't find it anywhere else.

Lee Fuller, Washington, D.C.

Fuller is executive director of Energy In Depth, a coalition of independent gas producers ("



What about this letter posted at OGAP (Oil & Gas Accountability Project)?


"October 8th, 2004

Weston Wilson
EPA Employee
Denver, Colorado

Honorable Wayne Allard
7340 E. Caley, Suite 215
Englewood, Colorado 80111

Honorable Ben Nighthorse Campbell
6950 E. Belleview Avenue, Suite 200
Greenwood Village, Colorado 80111

Honorable Diana DeGette
600 Grant Street, Suite 202
Denver, Colorado 80203

Dear Senators Allard and Campbell and Representative DeGette,

Recent events at EPA have caused me and several of my peers at EPA great concern. In June of this year, EPA produced a final report pursuant to the Safe Drinking Water Act that I believe is scientifically unsound and contrary to the purposes of the law. In this report, EPA was to have studied the environmental effects that might result from the injection of toxic fluids used to hydraulically fracture coal beds to produce natural gas. In Colorado, coal beds that produce natural gas occur within aquifers that are used for drinking water supplies. While EPA's report concludes this practice poses little or no threat to underground sources of drinking water, based on the available science and literature, EPA's conclusions are unsupportable. EPA has conducted limited research reaching the unsupported conclusion that this industry practice needs no further study at this time. EPA decisions were supported by a Peer Review Panel; however five of the seven members of this panel appear to have conflicts-of-interest and may benefit from EPA's decision not to conduct further investigation or impose regulatory conditions.

As these matters are complex, I enclose a technical analysis to further inform you and other members of Congress. I invoke the protections under the First Amendment of the Constitution and the Whistleblowers Protection Act should EPA retaliate against me as a result of speaking with you or other members of Congress or speaking to the press or the public regarding this matter. i am a resident of Denver in the first Congressional District of Colorado and I am employed by the Environmental Protection Agency in Denver. I have been employed by the EPA's Regional Office in Denver, since 1974. I am currently assigned to the Office of Ecosystems Protection and Remediation, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPAl Team, I am an environmental engineer assigned to assist EPA with its responsibilities under Section 309 of the Clean Air Act to independently review federal agency's compliance with NEPA. Currently I analyze the environmental impacts of coal mining, gold mining, and oil and gas development on public lands. I serve as the Legislative Advocate for the American Federation of Government Employees Local 3607 representing professional and non-professional employees in EPA Region 8. I have also served as the President of Local 3607 in the past. EPA's failure to regulate the injection of fluids for hydraulic fracturing of coal bed methane reservoirs appears to be improper under the Safe Drinking Water Act and may result in danger to public health and safety. I respectfully request that you investigate this matter and respond as you and other members of Congress deem appropriate.

Red Rock Pictures and New Energy Economy Present Split Estate at CCA on Friday, February 26 at 8 pm

Press Release:

"Red Rock Pictures and New Energy Economy Present Split Estate at CCA on Friday, February 26 at 8 pm

Red Rock Pictures is joining forces with New Energy Economy to help move New Mexico to the forefront of clean energy development and visionary climate change action. The two organizations will present a screening of Split Estate at the Center for Contemporary Arts, 1050 Old Pecos Trail, on Friday, February 26 at 8 pm. For more information and/or to order tickets, please call the CCA box office at 505.982.1338.

The joint production will raise awareness of an upcoming opportunity to cap the state's global warming emissions and establish New Mexico in a leadership role in addressing climate change. New Energy Economy, dedicated to energy independence and creating opportunities for New Mexico by developing solutions to global warming, has petitioned the state's Environmental Improvement Board (EIB) to set a science-based cap on carbon emissions in New Mexico.

On March 1, the EIB will hold public hearings at the Toney Anaya Building, located at 2550 Cerrillos Road in Santa Fe. This is a critical opportunity to stand with fellow citizens and speak for New Mexico's future.

Narrated by Ali MacGraw, Split Estate is an award-winning documentary film that maps a tragedy in the making, as citizens in the path of a natural gas drilling boom in the Rocky Mountain West struggle against the erosion of their civil liberties, their communities and their health.

"Split Estate tells a powerful story about Americans living with the dirty side of oil and gas development in their own backyards," states Amy Mall, Senior Policy Analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The film, which makes a compelling case for clean energy development, was used as an educational tool by a grassroots coalition in Santa Fe County to help establish one of the strongest ordinances in the country to safeguard against irresponsible development and production by the fossil fuel industry.

Director Debra Anderson will be on hand, as will be the staff of New Energy Economy to discuss their petition before the EIB.

For tickets to the February 26 screening, please call 505.982.1338.

For more information about Split Estate:

For more information about the March 1 public hearing, please contact Ryan Shaening Pokrasso with New Energy Economy at rshaenin (at) and 831.566.9387."

Professor urges locals to speak up on development

Public input welcome at twice-weekly workshops for sustainable land plans

Phaedra Haywood | The New Mexican
Posted: Friday, February 19, 2010 - 2

"Planning may not be intriguing, but planning professor David Henkel has a warning for Santa Fe County residents: "If you don't plan, someone else is going to make decisions that you can't control and you may not like them."

Henkel is one of about 20 county residents providing public input at twice-weekly workshops designed to usher Santa Fe County's draft Sustainable Land Development Plan or SLDP, toward adoption.

Henkel has lived in the Galisteo Basin area since 1987. He teaches planning at The University of New Mexico's School of Architecture and Planning and has spent the last 10 years working with his students conducting environmental research in southern Santa Fe County. He helped the communities of Lamy, Eldorado, Galisteo, Cerrillos and Santo Domingo Pueblo develop their own community plans and participated in the last two plan rewrites for Santa Fe County.

He said the SLDP is a more evolved version of the plans penned in the past two decades.

"In the early '80s, the key factor was water," Henkel said. The update in the early '90s kept the focus on water, but added in a consideration of planning for infrastructure and services, he said.

Henkel said the new plan considers more factors, including the health of the land, water and the economy.

What's most different about it, Henkel said, is that it takes into account the singularity of Santa Fe County. " More>>>>

Revised Sustainable Land Development Plan (SLDP)>>>>

Thursday, February 18, 2010

San Miguel County Oil & Gas Ordinance Task Force

San Miguel County
Oil & Gas Ordinance Task Force
212 Mills Ave
Las Vegas, NM

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

(NM) Senate rejects environmental board pick

Steve Terrell | The New Mexican
Posted: Wednesday, February 17, 2010 -

"Old wounds among Democratic state senators helped sink Gov. Bill Richardson's nominee to an environmental board on Tuesday.

The Senate voted 17-25 to reject the nomination of Neri Holguin to the state Environmental Improvement Board. It was the first time since 1997 that the Senate rejected a governor's nomination.

Ten Democrats joined all 15 Republicans to scuttle the selection of Holguin, who has served on the board for about seven months. The board sets rules and regulations for the state Environment Department.

Holguin is a professional Democratic political consultant who ran the campaigns of at least three current senators and helped on the campaign of at least one other.

Her work in campaigns was one reason cited by some of those who voted against her.

The board has drawn criticism recently from some legislators and business organizations who object to the panel trying to regulate greenhouse gases emissions.

But most of the sparks that flew had to do with Holguin's campaign work. The vote dramatized the split between more conservative members, who opposed the nomination, and the progressive wing, which backed her." More>>>>

Monday, February 15, 2010

House defeats pollution provision bill (HB 259)

The Santa Fe New Mexican

Local News in Brief

Feb. 15th, 2010

"A proposal that would give private citizens the power to go after polluters who violate certain New Mexico environmental laws has been rejected by the House.

The legislation would have amended the Environmental Improvement Act, the Water Quality Act and the Oil and Gas Act to allow for a person to go to court to demand that polluters comply with state laws spelled out by the three acts.

The measure also would allow citizens to file civil actions against state agencies if they fail to enforce the laws.

The House defeated the measure on a 34-32 vote over the objections of lawmakers who argued the proposal would open the door to frivolous lawsuits.

Critics also were concerned that environmental groups would be able to bring suits under the proposal."

HB 259 to be heard by the House

Update: HB 259 Support the private right to enforce environmental statutes

Sunday, February 14, 2010

EARTHWORKS: Good news for New Mexico and drilling affected communities across the country (HB 259 +)

Good news for New Mexico and drilling affected communities across the country

Polluter stopping bill moves ahead

Yesterday a bill that would allow citizens to enforce environmental laws -- to stop polluters from polluting -- took a big step towards becoming law.

The New Mexico House Judiciary Committee passed Private Action to Enforce Environmental Statute - House Bill 259.

It goes to the House floor this afternoon; then it's on to the Senate. If it passes the whole legislature, the Governor will certainly sign it into law.

And more good news.

The New Mexico legislature also killed a ridiculous proposal by drilling industry champions. Industry wanted to punish communities who regulated oil & gas drilling by prohibiting them from receiving taxes generated by drilling. Only if a community let industry run wild would they get severance tax revenue. Fortunately, that proposal died (was tabled) a well deserved death this week.

This is a big deal nationwide because New Mexico is a bellwether for the entire country. Good drilling laws and regulations in New Mexico will influence other states wrestling with similar issues -- like New York and Pennsylvania.

Thanks to everyone that made calls and donated to help counter industry's initiatives.

Stay tuned for more updates. Things are looking good, but the fight is not over until this common sense bill becomes law.

Gwen Lachelt signature
Gwen Lachelt, Oil & Gas Accountability Project Director

P.S. Keep up with us on Twitter and at EARTHblog.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

HB 259 to be heard by the House

HB 259 has moved from the House Judiciary Committee and will go onto the House floor tonight.

See post:

Update: HB 259 Support the private right to enforce environmental statutes

Dish mayor puts fear of frack into natural gas industry

The Dallas Morning News

2:57 PM Fri, Feb 12, 2010

Elizabeth Souder/Reporter

Posted at Bluedaze by TXSharon regarding the controversial "Energy in Depth" press release, according to The Dallas Morning News :

"The natural gas industry is paying inordinate attention to Calvin Tillman, the mayor of tiny Dish, Texas.

Sure, he's the guy who commissioned the air quality study that has triggered more studies around the Barnett Shale, as well as political chatter about drilling moratoriums and new regulations.* If these things come to pass, drilling and completing natural gas wells could become much more expensive for producers.

The typical -- and wholly expected -- industry response has been to point out the limitations of the Dish air quality study and to counter the results with other data.

But something has changed in the past few weeks. As Mayor Tillman heads to New York and Pennsylvania next week to tell his story in six towns, industry groups have begun to attack.

Now, the Texas Pipeline Association has told Tillman it will officially request a list of the people who contributed to the town's legal fund.

And an industry advocacy group called Energy in Depth issued a snarky press release that poses questions to Tillman. The questions are designed to show that natural gas drilling isn't as worrisome as Tillman might say.

So why is the natural gas industry so afraid of the mayor of a town of 362 people?

"We are very concerned about what's happening in New York, so anytime someone comes to exaggerate or possibly lie about their experiences, we're going to fight that," said Jeff Eshelman, a spokesman for Energy in Depth.

As I've stated on this blog before, I think natural gas executives worry that if regular people become fearful of drilling, politicians will place stlff regulations on the industry and people won't be very eager to lease their land to producers. Those outcomes could make drilling and completing a well more expensive, and, in some cases, unprofitable.

Jump for the Energy in Depth press release." More>>>>

* Study, Texas Oil & Gas Accountability Project, "Community Health Survey Shows Shale Gas Threatens Human Health ."

Along these lines, NM HB 259 is scheduled to be head this morning. See link at Common Ground United: Update: HB 259 Support the private right to enforce environmental statutes

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Update: HB 259 Support the private right to enforce environmental statutes

In regards to HB 259, not only is it sponsored by Representative Ben Lujan, Speaker of the House, but it has the support of the NM Attorney General Gary King, Please help support the bill. See the Earthworks Action Alert:

EARTHWORKS action alert (for web version, click here>>>>)

Support the private right to enforce environmental statutes

UPDATE: Bill passes Consumer & Public Affairs Committe (thanks for your calls!)
On to the House Judiciary Committee!

Call New Mexico state legislators now
(see legislator list at bottom of alert)


House Bill 259

Sponsored by: Representative Ben Lujan, Speaker of the House

Is scheduled to be heard in House Judiciary Committee


TBA: we expect either Friday or Saturday

1:30 pm

Room 309

State Capitol Building - Santa Fe, New Mexico


Urge legislators to vote YES on House Bill 259 (the Private Right Action Act)

HB 259 allows affected landowners to file suit to enforce environmental laws, or to spur government action, when the government fails to take action against a violation of the law.

Based on New Mexico's experience with similar laws - the Surface Mining Act (passed in 1979) and the Mining Act (1993) - HB 259 won't result in frivolous lawsuits. Only two suits have ever been filed under these laws and neither suit resulted in judgment against the State.


House Bill 259 - bill language:

HB 259 - Fiscal Impact Report:


House Judiciary Commitee Members:
Please contact these legislators today! For a full list of committee members:


Representative Eliseo Lee Alcon
Capitol Phone: (505) 986-4254
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots,

Representative Elias Barela
Capitol Phone: (505) 986-4235
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots,

Representative Joseph Cervantes
Capitol Phone: (505) 986-4249
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spam

Representative Mimi Stewart
Capitol Phone: (505) 986-4840

‘Bad actor’ legislation (HB 276) dies on House floor

The New Mexico Independent

By Trip Jennings 2/10/10 9:10 PM

coal-power-plant-pic1"House lawmakers on Wednesday narrowly rejected giving power to state environmental regulators to consider a company’s past crimes and regulatory punishments in other states when deciding whether to revoke or deny an air quality permit.

The bill died on the House floor Lawmakers on a 32-33 vote after a lengthy, sometimes testy debate.

Supporters cast the bill in terms of protecting the poorest New Mexicans from pollution. Opponents countered that it changed the regulatory rules mid-stream and would send a anti-business message to firms that want to relocate here.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, would have empowered the New Mexico Environment Department and Bernalillo County to consider “bad actor” provisions when weighing decisions related to a permit.

New Mexico has “five or six bad actors” that continue to emit air pollution and contamination that could lead to death despite repeated sanctions, Egolf told his colleagues.

“If we can’t come together to help some of the poorest people in New Mexico get out from under clouds of pollution … then I don’t know what to say,“ Egolf said. “There are companies operating in New Mexico that shouldn’t be. We’ve got to stop it.”

But several lawmakers opposed the bill, citing, among other things, its retroactivity." More>>>>

2010 Regular Session

HB 276


Sponsor: Brian F. Egolf

Current Location: Died

Wednesday, February 10, 2010




For Immediate Release: February 10, 2010

§ Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, Western Environmental Law Center, 575.613.4197
§ Mike Eisenfeld, San Juan Citizens Alliance, 505.360.8994

PIONEERING FEDERAL CLIMATE AND ENERGY LAWSUIT TO MOVE FORWARD Conservation Groups Win Legal Victory Against U.S. Bureau of Land Management

Taos, New Mexico. A Federal Judge has rejected an attempt by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to dismiss a pioneering lawsuit filed by conservation groups. The lawsuit, filed last year, seeks to safeguard the climate by requiring BLM to account for the climate change impacts of its oil and gas leasing decisions. In particular, the lawsuit seeks to compel BLM to require oil and gas companies to use cost-effective, proven technologies and practices which keep methane – a potent greenhouse gas at least 25 times stronger than carbon dioxide – out of the atmosphere and in the pipelines for homes, schools, and businesses.

“Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar is bringing much-needed reform to the BLM’s leasing program,” said Mike Eisenfeld with the San Juan Citizens Alliance. “However, leasing reform must account for climate pollution caused by federally-authorized oil and gas development to protect our shared climate. Our lands, rivers, streams, farms, and communities are at risk.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) estimates that oil and gas operations are the largest human-made source of methane and account for 24% of total methane emissions in the United States. Fortunately, EPA has established the “Natural Gas STAR” program to encourage oil and gas companies to cut methane waste to reduce global warming pollution and recover value. EPA has identified over 120 technologies and practices to effectively reduce methane waste and make operations more efficient. For calendar year 2008, EPA estimated that this program avoided 46.3 million tons of CO2 equivalent, equal to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from approximately 8.5 million passenger vehicles or 6 million homes per year, and added revenue of nearly $802 million in natural gas sales – revenue which translates into additional royalties for the American public. Despite these economic and environmental gains, BLM does not require the use of these proven and profitable technologies.

“It is simply unacceptable that BLM isn’t requiring oil and gas companies which lease – and let me emphasize this – public resources to use the best available solutions to reduce waste and safeguard our climate,” said Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, the Director of the Western Environmental Law Center’s Climate and Energy Program, and the conservation groups’ attorney. “The Federal Court’s ruling rejects BLM’s attempt to close the courthouse door to conservation groups and the very important issue of climate change. We now look forward to presenting our case that BLM’s oil and gas leasing decisions have ignored and rejected common-sense climate and energy solutions."

What you need to know about natural gas production

Now posted at Common Ground United under "Links," then under "Drilling Education," an excellent natural gas production link with video, spreadsheets, information about pit chemicals and drilling & fracturing chemicals, and photos:

"What you need to know about natural gas production

TEDX The Endocrine Disruption Exchange Chemicals in Natural Gas Operations What you need to know about natural gas production Dr. Colborn has delivered her talk "What You Need to Know About Natural Gas Production" many times across the country."

Development receives approval

Local news in brief, Feb. 10, 2010
| The New Mexican
Posted: Tuesday, February 09, 2010

"The Santa Fe County Commission granted preliminary plat and development plan approval Tuesday for the first phase of what could one day be a massive mixed-used development in the Galisteo Basin.

Tuesday's 4-0 vote approved preliminary plans for Trenza — formerly called the Village at Galisteo Basin Preserve — a 149-unit housing development that will be part of a larger project, which could eventually include 965 homes as well as schools, shops and thousands of acres of preserved open space." More>>>>

(Santa Fe) County mulls 60 job cuts

Finance director paints grim picture of finances

Phaedra Haywood | The New Mexican
Posted: Tuesday, February 09, 2010

"Santa Fe County might have to cut as many as 60 jobs in order to balance its budget for next year.

Finance Director Teresa Martinez presented a grim picture of the county finances to commissioners during a budget study session Tuesday.

She blamed falling gross-receipts tax revenues, costly legislative mandates and deficits in several county departments.

In addition to eliminating jobs, the county might have to cut funding to numerous programs including youth services, libraries, transportation and county satellite offices.

Shortfalls in certain departments — including corrections, health and fire — can be made up by using cash reserves from the general fund this year, Martinez said.

But without sweeping reform, she said, those reserves will likely be depleted within the next two years, causing the county to violate its own rules requiring minimum cash reserves. " More>>>>

As of this posting, the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce reflected that the County of Santa Fe has 445 employees. So, 60 into 445 equals 13.5% employee reduction.

Santa Fe County land plan workshops begin today


"-- Feb. 10, 7 a.m. -- Beginning today, Santa Fe County officials will hold the first of a number of small-group workshops for the public on the new land development plan. They're set for every Wednesday and Thursday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. over the coming weeks.

Wednesday, February 10 - Organization of workshops and discussion on Chapter 1: Vision and introduction to Chapter 2: Land Use Element

Thursday, February 11- Discussion on Chapter 2: Land Use Element and introduction to Chapter 14: Governance Element

Wednesday, February 17 - Continued discussion on Chapter 2: Land Use Element and introduction to Chapters 3 and 4: Agriculture and Ranch and Economic Development Elements

Thursday, February 18 - Discussion on Chapter 14: Governance (Includes Community Planning) and introduction to Chapters 5 and 6: Resource Conservation and Open Space Elements

Wednesday, February 24 - Discussion on Chapter 3 and 4: Agriculture and Ranch and Economic Development Elements also introduction to Chapters 7 and 8: Renewable Energy and Sustainable Green Design and Development Elements

Thursday, February 25 - Discussion on Chapters 5 and 6: Resource Conservation & Open Space, Trails, Parks Areas and introduction to Chapter 13: Housing

Wednesday, March 3 - Discussion on Chapters 7 and 8: Renewable Energy & Sustainable Green Design and Development Elements and introduction to Chapter 11: Water, Wastewater, and Stormwater Management Element

Thursday, March 4- Discussion on Chapter 13: Housing Element and introduction to Chapter 12: Adequate Public Facilities and Finance
(Please Note March 4 meeting will be in the Legal Conference Room, 102 Grant Ave.)

Wednesday, March 10 - Discussion on Chapter 11: Water, Wastewater, and Stormwater Management Element and introduction to Chapters 9 and 10: Public Safety and Transportation Elements

Thursday, March 11 - Discussion on Chapter 12: Adequate Public Facilities and Finance Element

Wednesday, March 17 - Discussion on Chapters 9 and 10: Public Safety and Transportation Elements

Additional Meetings will be scheduled as necessary. If you would like to participate in these workshops, receive the entire document electronically, or receive an individual chapter electronically, contact Melissa Holmes, 995-2717. For more information about the Sustainable Land Development Plan process, contact Robert Griego, 986-6215. You may also visit our website at"

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Update: House Bills 254 & 259

HB 254 is basically dead, or least without a pulse:

EARTHWORKS: Bill Would Prohibit Municipalities that Regulate Extractive Industries from Receiving Severance Tax Revenue

HB 259 passed and is on to the next committee (see actions):

EARTHWORKS: Support the private right to enforce environmental statutes

Santa Fe County small-group meetings on land development plan


"Santa Fe County officials plan a series of discussions with local residents about the latest draft of the Sustainable Land Development Plan. Those public meetings could begin as early as this week. County Commissioner Kathy Holian says they're designed to get public input before another draft is written. The plan now is about 300 pages, down from the 1,200 pages in the first draft. The oil and gas component of the plan has been omitted from these discussions since it is already completed. To find out about these small-group meetings, contact Melissa Holmes, 995-2717 or, or Planning Manager Robert Griego at 986-6215 or"

Monday, February 8, 2010

EARTHWORKS: Support the private right to enforce environmental statutes

EARTHWORKS: Support the private right to enforce environmental statutes

Call New Mexico state legislators now
(see legislator list at bottom of alert)


  • House Bill 259
  • Sponsored by: Representative Ben Lujan, Speaker of the House
  • Is scheduled to be heard in House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee tomorrow


  • Tuesday, February 9, 2010
  • 1:30 pm
  • Room 315
  • State Capitol Building - Santa Fe, New Mexico


  • Urge legislators to vote YES on House Bill 259 (the Private Right Action Act)
  • HB 259 amends the Environmental Improvement Act, the Water Quality Act and the Oil and Gas Act to allow private citizens to enforce the pollution provisions of those statutes
  • At a time when our state budgets are tight and state agencies have limited resources to enforce existing environmental laws, regulations and permits, this bill will provide citizens with an important tool to clean up their own backyards and communities.
  • HB 259 will supplement the environmental enforcement ability of state agencies at a time of limited budgets
  • HB 259 will enable local citizens to sue a company that is polluting and get a court order to make the company stop polluting
  • HB 259 will make it possible for local groups that might not have the resources to get reimbursed for litigation costs, including legal fees and expert fees, should the local group prevail
  • HB 259 will require that the state receive any civil penalties ordered by the court
  • HB 259 will not add to the state deficit

Conservation Voters New Mexico has this to say about the Private Right of Action bill:

The bill would be a crucial tool giving residents the power to demand compliance with, and enforcement of, these three crucial environmental laws.
Essentially, an agency that is either willfully derelict or simply incompetent in carrying out its statutory duties could be ordered by the court to perform its mandate. Or, in the same vein, if a violation is ongoing and the agency fails to act, for the first time a citizen will have the power to stop it via injunction.
A novel component to the bill is the $25,000 (or less) beneficial mitigation clause. Essentially, if an individual sues another individual for damages under any of the acts, any penalty will go to the same fund in which it would be deposited if the action had been brought by the agency itself, and up to $25,000 of that penalty may be directly used to mitigate the specific damages caused by the violation. This clause helps to guard against a situation where an agency not only initially fails to enforce an act, but also fails later to rectify the damages of its non-enforcement.
If this bill passes, willful or unwillful enforcement failure will never be a complete barrier to ensuring that the laws protecting New Mexico's environment may nonetheless still be fully enforced.

The Fiscal Impact Report for HB 254 states:

The intent of citizen suit legislation, such as HB 259, is to allow private rights of action to enforce environmental laws, or to spur government action, when the government fails to take action against a violation of the law. Federal environmental laws generally contain citizen suits provisions and New Mexico's two major mine regulatory laws include citizen suit provisions.NMSA 1978, Section 69-25A-24 (Surface Mining Act) and Section 69-36-14 (Mining Act). Both laws allow for EMNRD to be sued. These provisions, which have been in place since 1979 and 1993 respectively, have rarely been used. There are no records of any citizen suits under the Surface Mining Act and only two under the Mining Act. Neither suit resulted in any judgments against the State.


  • House Bill 259 - bill language:
  • HB 259 - Fiscal Impact Report:


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


  • House Consumer and Public Affairs:
    Please contact these Committee Members today!
  • Representative Gail Chasey - (D) - Committee Chair
    Capitol Phone: (505) 986-4844
  • Representative Antonio "Moe" Maestas - (D) - Committee Vice-Chair
    Capitol Phone: (505) 986-4464
  • Representative Karen Giannini
    Capitol Phone: (505) 986-4234
  • Representative Bill O'Neill
    Capitol Phone: (505) 986-4254
  • Representative Al Park
    Capitol Phone: (505) 986-4411

EARTHWORKS: Bill Would Prohibit Municipalities that Regulate Extractive Industries from Receiving Severance Tax Revenue


To see a web version of the alert below, go to:

Bill Would Prohibit Municipalities
that Regulate Extractive Industries
from Receiving Severance Tax Revenue

Call New Mexico state legislators now to allow common sense to prevail
(see legislator list at bottom of alert)

Jurisdictions that host drilling and mining should be able to govern it in the public interest AND receive taxes generated by it


House Bill 254
Sponsored by: Representative Keith Gardner (Roswell)
Is scheduled to be heard in House Health and Government Affairs Committee tomorrow

Tuesday, February 9, 2010
8:30 am
Room 309
State Capitol Building - Santa Fe, New Mexico

Urge legislators to vote NO on House Bill 254
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 mining and oil and gas development.
This bill is similar to Senate Bill 8 sponsored by Senator Bill Sharer from Farmington. Stay tuned for alerts on this bill.

The Fiscal Impact Report for HB 254 states:

Significant issues
HB 254 would have a significant impact on the funding of vital capital projects in those municipalities and counties whose ordinances are construed as having an onerous effect on extractive industries. Some municipalities and counties may have unique, very compelling reasons for such ordinances due to serious past pollution, probability of complications and associated costs, fragile terrain, vulnerable populations, etc. However, HB 254 will penalize all the same regardless of their distinct circumstances and severity of risk associated with some ordinances deemed burdensome.
The New Mexico Municipal League is concerned that the funding capabilities for the counties and municipalities would be adversely affected and could result in significantly restricting reliable funding resources. This bill will also affect certain Local Tribal Government Agencies by limiting the availability of future severance tax funding for projects within targeted counties. Santa Fe County is opposed to this bill since they have enacted oil and gas ordinance that could be later deemed onerous and result in prohibiting severance tax bond proceeds for needed capital projects.

House Bill 254 - bill language:
HB 254 - Fiscal Impact Report:

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


House Health and Government Affairs:
Please contact these Committee Members today!
Representative Mimi Stewart - (D) - Committee Chair
Capitol Phone: (505) 986-4840
Representative Jeff Steinborn - (D) - Committee Vice-Chair
Capitol Phone: (505) 986-4248
Representative Eleanor Chavez
Capitol Phone: (505) 986-4464
Representative John Heaton
Capitol Phone: (505) 986-4432
Representative Luciano "Lucky" Varela
Capitol Phone: (505) 986-4318
Representative Jeannette Wallace
Capitol Phone: (505) 986-4452