Should Northwest Sandoval County families have weaker oil and gas safeguards than Rio Rancho residents? That’s what is proposed in a draft ordinance being considered by the county.

Several drafts were never made public, but in mid-June a draft oil and gas ordinance was posted on the Sandoval County Planning and Zoning Commission website. The draft divides the county into a “Northwest Energy Development Area” and a “Southeast Development Area.” The ordinance describes the Northwest area as including Counselor, La Jara, Regina, Torreon, Cabezon, La Cueva, San Luis, Gillman and Ponderosa, and different decision-making rules would apply to the two areas.

According to the draft, applications for oil and gas exploration and drilling in the Northwest area would go through only an administrative review – meaning the director of Planning and Zoning has the authority to approve all permits.

If the draft is adopted, residents in this area would not be notified of any potential oil and gas activity and would have no opportunity to comment about proposed permits for exploratory or production wells. It would be totally up to the director of Planning and Zoning to make the decision. The two Planning and Zoning Commissioners whom Sandoval County Commissioner Ken Eichwald appointed, Aparicio Herrera and Dennis Trujillo, would have no say. These communities in the area would not be able to express concerns about roads, local emergency services, noise, odors, lighting, property rights and other issues that may be important.

On the other hand, permit requests for oil production in the Southeast Development Area must be approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission, requiring public notice and a hearing. (Requests for permits to explore for oil and gas would go through only the administrative process.)

Public notice and a public hearing before Planning and Zoning Committee should be a basic right of residents, no matter where you live in Sandoval County.

Two Planning and Zoning Commission public hearings are scheduled on the proposed oil and gas ordinance — one at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 29, and the other on July 11. Please attend these meetings or write to the Planning and Zoning commissioners listed below to ask for an ordinance that requires public input before drilling is approved.

Click here to see the June draft. It refers to the Temporary Use Permit (for exploratory wells) and the Conditional Use Permit (for production wells) as described in the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance (the more general ordinance that applies to the county).

This draft is not a done deal by any means. Please share your concerns with the Planning and Zoning commissioners appointed by Commissioner Eichwald:

Aparicio C. Herrera Jr.: ahererra@sandovalcountynm.gov
Dennis R. Trujillo: dtrujillo@sandovalcountynm.gov

Rio Grande Chapter Contact:
Miya King-Flaherty,
Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter public-lands fellow,
miya.king-flaherty@sierraclub. org

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