Sandoval officials side with Big Oil and Gas over residents

For immediate release: Sept. 14, 2017
Last week, the Sandoval County Planning and Zoning Commission voted 3-2 to recommend an oil and gas ordinance that would bypass public input and endanger drinking water. But there’s still time to stop it.

Commissioner Dan Stoddard’s ordinance, recommended Tuesday with few changes by the P and Z Commission, would give county staff sole authority to approve or deny drilling applications.

“Staff could allow oil and gas drilling without public notice, hearings or a vote by the county commission,” Rio Grande Sierra Club Public Lands Fellow Miya King-Flaherty said.

“All an oil or gas company has to do is to fill out an application. The staff is only required to make sure it is complete — then within 10 days the Department director must grant a permit.”

The Stoddard ordinance, which now goes to the Sandoval County Commission, wouldn’t require baseline groundwater testing or post-drilling monitoring. That puts the Albuquerque and Rio Rancho aquifers, used by Sandoval County, Rio Rancho and Albuquerque, at risk of contamination from chemicals used in drilling, fracking and production.

Newly appointed Planning and Zoning Commissioner Stoddard claims the state already protects groundwater at drill sites; that is not true. The state neither requires monitoring wells nor does monitoring itself. In fact, while the state Oil Conservation Division has cited oil and gas companies for thousands of violations since 2010, it has not levied a single fine.

The Stoddard ordinance only requires a $300 fine for a violation. Counties can and must go farther than the state to ensure that oil and gas operators are acting responsibly and not endangering Sandoval families’ drinking water and health.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Sandoval resident Mary Feldblum presented the “Citizens Ordinance,” which lays out strong, common-sense protections for Sandoval County families. It is based on proven components from other successful ordinances, as well as elements from various Sandoval County drafts.

“Hundreds of residents have attended county meetings asking for strong safeguards against oil and gas damages. We have even presented the Citizens’ Ordinance as a responsible alternative,” Sandoval County resident Randy Erickson said. “The few who have spoken up for the Stoddard ordinance represent the oil and gas industry. Somehow the commissioners seem to listen to the few, not the many.”

“If the Stoddard ordinance is passed, it will mean multiple SandRidges — and you remember SandRidge — except we won’t have the chance to object,” Erickson said.

The county commission is likely to discuss the Stoddard ordinance at its Sept. 21 meeting. The meeting is at 6 p.m. at Commission Chambers, Sandoval County Administration Building, 1500 Idalia Road, Bernalillo. A final vote could occur as early as Oct. 19.

If you can’t make it to the meeting, or even if you can, please write to your commissioners to tell them to reject the Stoddard ordinance and adopt the Citizens Ordinance.

“I hope county commissioners listen to their constituents, listen to the facts and adopt the Citizens Ordinance rather than weak regulations that give residents no say,” said Placitas resident Connie Falk.

“The people of Sandoval County have spoken: We want clean, safe drinking water, clean air, peace of mind, stable property values. The Citizens’ Ordinance can give us that, not the industry giveaway they are currently considering.”

Sandoval officials side with Big Oil and Gas over residents