Community groups on Thursday welcomed the Sandoval County Planning and Zoning Commission’s recommendation to deny an application by troubled Oklahoma corporation SandRidge Energy Inc. to drill an exploratory oil well, but the groups urged the county to adopt a moratorium on all oil and gas extraction until ordinances can be developed to protect community health, air, water and other resources from such operations.
Hundreds of Sandoval County residents turned out to the two committee hearings on the topic, and more than 1,000 signed a petition opposing the special-use permit to drill in an area zoned residential.
“While this is a positive signal that the county commission will reject this ill-advised request, more fracking applications are likely to come, and the county isn’t prepared to deal with the consequences of oil and gas fracking here. We support a moratorium on any new well permits until lawmakers can put in place stringent legislation to protect groundwater and air quality,” said Eleanor Bravo, a Sandoval County resident and Organizer for Food & Water Watch.
“Sandoval County Planning & Zoning acted responsibly in voting to reject SandRidge’s re-zoning request,” said Mariel Nanasi, Executive Director, New Energy Economy. “Our best bet for economic development is investment in renewables rather than fracking from companies on the cusp of defaults and bankruptcy. Why would New Mexicans want to bank on companies that are over-leveraged and have a track record of poisoning our air and water? We wouldn’t,” stated Nanasi.
“Sandridge Energy’s zoning variance application turns out to be the stimulus for Sandoval County to make a careful examination and comprehensive set of rules to guide their decisions on gas and oil exploration and development permits,” said Dan Lorimier of the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club.
“The county does not have ordinances in place to protect residents’ health, air quality, water quality, and cultural resources from oil and gas development, or to address increased traffic or noise pollution from these operations,” Lorimier said. “A temporary moratorium offers the opportunity to seek public input and develop and implement these safeguards.”
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves the injection at high pressure of sometimes millions of gallons of chemically laced fluid introduced into the well to shock the oil/gas loose from rock formation. The process has been known to cause pollution to groundwater and waterways throughout the country. Injection of the waste fluid has been responsible for a sudden rise in earthquakes.