Sandoval County is in the process of amending its comprehensive zoning ordinance to deal with oil and gas extraction. This all started in November 2015 when SandRidge Energy Inc., an Oklahoma-based oil and gas company, applied for a special-use permit to drill near Rio Rancho city limits. Citizen groups pushed back and exposed Sandoval County’s lack of ordinances to protect water, roads, cultural resources, property values, or health against oil and gas extraction.
An ordinance is a police power that the county implements to protect and promote its residents’ public health, safety and general welfare. Sandoval County’s current draft oil and gas ordinance does not go far enough. The draft does not require oil and gas companies to conduct environmental impact assessments before drilling; lacks considerations for cultural, archeological, recreational and wildlife sites; and much more.
How was this ordinance drafted?
Sandoval County Commissioners directed the Planning and Zoning Commission to develop an ordinance, which was written by Planning and Zoning Department staff with little knowledge or technical expertise on the oil and gas industry.
The Planning and Zoning Commission received the ordinance drafted by the staff, and notified the public for a hearing. The Planning and Zoning Commission may request changes to the draft based on public input, or vote and recommend it to the county commission. As of July 2017, the ordinance is still in draft state within Planning and Zoning.
Once the County Commission officially receives the recommended draft, it, too, must hold public hearings and receive written and spoken comments. The commission could send the draft back to the Planning and Zoning Commission to incorporate the new and important changes, or vote to approve it so it finally becomes law.
This draft is not a done deal.
Update 8/2/2017 – Now, the County Planning and Zoning Commission is considering whether to scrap the draft and instead approve drilling permits using Special Use provisions in the existing Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance. This means the County can approve each oil and gas application based on a set of general standards rather than amending the Ordinance to outline more specific requirements.
The drafted ordinance has serious flaws
Where does the water come from? What if the Albuquerque basin aquifer becomes contaminated as a result of oil and gas operations? How far should a drilling well be from sensitive areas such as neighborhoods, parks, and schools? What are the impacts on property values?
Actions you can take
- Contact your County Commissioner
- Attend a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting
- Comment at public meeting
- Write a letter to the editor
- Sign a petition
The process for extracting oil and natural gas from shale rock uses an advanced technology called horizontal fracking (fracking), which combines horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing. A single well can be drilled to depths of up to 2-miles or more, requires millions of gallons of water, and uses hundreds of chemicals to make operational. Visit the links below for more information about the issues and impacts of fracking:
Hydraulic Fracturing 101 (Earthworks)
The Social Costs of Fracking Report: A Pennsylvania Case Study (Food and Water Watch)
The Urgent Case for Ban on Fracking (Food and Water Watch)
Letters of support
Send a copy of your letters to Miya King-Flaherty