“…Like A War Zone”: Worries About Increased Oil Drilling

“…Like A War Zone”: Worries About Increased Oil Drilling

Sarah Jane White, with her grandson, worries that someday, children won't be able to find clean water on the Navajo reservation.

Sarah Jane White, with her grandson, worries that someday, children won’t be able to find clean water on the Navajo reservation.
Credit Laura Paskus
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Sarah Jane White’s walking to the top of a sandy hill near the eastern edge of the Navajo reservation. Along the way, she points to footprints in the sand. Her 4-year-old grandson, Albino, crouches to look. She shows him the prints of a horse, then a cow. Each time, he’s delighted.

It’s sunny and warm, though just a few days before the official start of winter. We walk past juniper trees, an old sweat lodge. Albino powers across the sandstone arroyo and on up the hill. The sky’s a deep blue. And depending on the breeze, the air smells like either sage or pine.

“Right now, there’s healthy people living here,” says White. “The air is fresh. It’s clean.”

White and her relatives are “allottees,” Navajo people living on lands deeded to them by the federal government.

The federal government deferred new oil leases near Chaco Canyon National Historical Park last month. But many people who live here are still worried about how development outside the park will affect their communities, their landscapes, and their children’s futures.

If you’ve driven Highway 550 between Cuba and Farmington recently, you’ve seen the oil rigs and flares on federal allotments along the road near Lybrook and Counselor.

But people like White – people who live here – seem surprised to see how fast things have changed. “When they’re done sucking everything out, everybody’s going to pack up and leave and leave their trash behind,” she says. “Nobody’s going to clean it up. That’s what bothers me.”

Credit Laura Paskus

At the top of the hill, White looks out, across the landscape. From here, she can see four different wells in the distance. “I see the landscape looks really beautiful, but when you see all these oil tanks and fields, that’s not beautiful,” she says. “The flare, that doesn’t look good at all. And if we don’t stop this, it’s going to be all over the place.”

In the past two years, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has approved more than 100 new exploratory wells around here. Companies like Encana Corporation and WPX Energy have come in, offering tens of thousands of dollars to allottees willing to have a well on their lands.

Credit Laura Paskus

Each well pad has its own road, waste pond, and tanks. During drilling, pickup trucks and semi-trucks run up and down the roads 24 hours a day.

Lori Goodman directs the nonprofit, Diné CARE – Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment. “The leases are being sold… grandma and grandpa are selling their leases, they get $60,000, $80,000. They’ve never seen money like that, and they’re not understanding the value of it, even.”

Oftentimes, she explains, people don’t understand what they’re signing, and they don’t understand what’s going to happen on their lands.

That’s also a one-time payment – even if the well runs for decades.

Many Navajo people who live here are upset that the roads leading to their homes are being ripped up by semi-trucks. They’re afraid of fracking fluids. They don’t know what’s coming out of the flares. And they worry about blowouts and accidents that happen far – very far – from emergency services.

Victoria Gutierrez is Sarah Jane White’s daughter. “Especially at night, it’s enough to make you just cry. One of the ladies (said it) looks like a war zone. It’s just completely lit up,” she says. “All you see is flames everywhere, you smell that gas, that burning, it’s just ugly.”

Guttierrez knows that the wells mean money: lots of cash for people working in the fields, and depending on land ownership and jurisdiction, hundreds of millions of dollars for the state of New Mexico, the federal government, or the Navajo Nation tribal government and millions more in profits for the oil companies.

But she’s angry that Navajo people are living with the trucks and the flares, the noise and the fear.

“I think indigenous people, Navajos, we’ve been pushed around enough. We were forced to live on land no one wanted, (and) now everyone wants it because we’re full of natural resources,” she says. “It’s not right. And so, leave it where it’s at. Leave it where it’s at. That’s what I say.”

Guttierrez’s mom, Sarah Jane White, says Navajo people live where they are born. “Like, if I was born here,” she says, pointing to the ground between her feet, “I would live here. And I would die here. And I would want to be buried here. You don’t leave your homeland.”

That’s why they are fighting, she says. Because what happens now will still matter to the children born here in a century.

***

Forwarded by Leslie Lakind from

Charlotte Levinson, President

The Max & Anna Levinson Foundation
P.O. Box 6309, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87502
505-995-8802  levinsonfoundation.org

Santa Fe Global Water Festival promo video

Santa Fe Global Water Festival promo video

http://youtu.be/uwLmPD6C9ew

 

 

San Miguel County Passes Tough Oil and Gas Regulations

From La Jicarita

San Miguel County Passes Tough Oil and Gas Regulations.

By KAY MATTHEWS

Today the San Miguel County Commission unanimously voted to adopt the San Miguel County Oil and Gas Regulations ordinance, which uses zoning and stringent requirements to regulate how and where the oil and gas industry can explore, drill, and hydraulically “frack” within the county. At the last public hearing before the adoption of the ordinance, Robert Freilich, the land use law attorney who helped the county draft the ordinance, stated, “This ordinance is a lot better than Santa Fe’s ordinance.” He also acknowledged the hard work of the members of PROTECT San Miguel County, whose diligence in reviewing the ordinance and helping in its revision makes it one of the toughest in the country. After the commissioners passed the ordinance, they also thanked all of those who had worked so hard to make this a reality.

La Jicarita spoke with PROTECT San Miguel County member Bob Wessely about what makes the San Miguel County ordinance so strong. He described it as basically a “large collection” of details that have gone through four or five incremental drafts to address problems raised by his organization and by the public at the 15 or so hearings held over the last several years. He cited four areas in which the final draft is particularly rigorous:

  • Permit application processes and studies are extensive, including detailed environmental impacts, water availability, traffic, infrastructure, geohydrology, fiscal impacts and emergency response plans.
  • Regulations for enforcement now include the hiring of a well-qualified county inspector, paid for by the industry, who will be responsible for overall application review as well as frequent monitoring and inspections stipulated in the ordinance. The strong post-permit monitoring now includes a 10-year annual inspection of abandoned wells for possible leakage.
  • The industry is held responsible for all County costs, including application technical review, ongoing inspection and monitoring, and additional off-site infrastructure (roads, judicial system, etc.).
  • Protection and mitigation requirements have been expanded to cover all areas of potential impacts by the drilling process (surface water, groundwater, air, noise, lighting, traffic, viewshed, etc.).

These regulatory requirements will apply to the eastern portion of the county—the boundary line is about 30 miles east of I-25 and runs from north to south— where exploration and drilling will be allowed. The western portion of the county is off limits.

sanmiguel_map

Other regulations that PROTECT requested or worked on with the county have also been included in the ordinance:

  • Pre-operation baseline testing requirements for air quality and water quality are extensive.
  • Air quality monitoring has been strengthened to protect county citizens from potential leaks of gasses during operations (drilling, fracking, and extraction). Closed loop systems are required. Open pit storage of fluids is prohibited.
  • Disposal of all wastes must be at state approved waste facilities, of which there are none within the county.
  • Water quality requirements were strengthened by designating which substances the industry has to test for.
  • Set back limits from drilling operations were established for a wide arrange of categories. Residential and school set backs are 4,000 feet, approximately a kilometer; non-residential structures are 1,000 feet; and groundwater recharge areas such as wetlands, acequias, and rivers are 1.5 miles. Conchas Lake, a popular recreation area, has a 2-mile set back.

I asked Wessely if he felt this ordinance would act to discourage oil and gas development because of its onerous requirements. He answered that it would certainly discourage a “fly by night” operator and would make large companies like Shell carefully consider whether it’s worthwhile, before engaging in the process. While there is currently no drilling taking place in the county, there are leases in the Watrous area (west of the dividing line) and some ranchers in the eastern area are desirous of having drilling on their ranches.

San Miguel County Board of Commissioners (L to R: Commissioner Marcellino Ortiz, Nicolas Leger, Consultant Steve Burstein, Dr. Bob Freilich, Commissioner Art Padilla, Commissioner Gilbert Sena, County Manager Les Montoya) final Oil and Gas Ordinance Public Hearing, 3 November 2014.

The San Miguel Oil and Gas Regulations were long in the making. La Jicarita asked Pat Leahan, with the Las Vegas Peace and Justice Center and PROTECT San Miguel County, to provide a timeline of how the public and county worked together to promulgate this ordinance.

  • In 2008 the Las Vegas Peace and Justice Center was asked by some folks in Mora County to look into leases that were being requested in Mora County, which prompted the Center to see if there were any leases also being pursued in San Miguel County.
  • In October of 2009 the Center went before the San Miguel County Commission to present the information that there had been drilling activity in 2006. The county was unaware of that fact and when it looked into county regulations involving extraction found that the regulations dealt primarily with gravel and other types of mining, not oil and gas.
  • San Miguel County Attorney Jesus Lopez directed the commission to look into drafting a moratorium on oil and gas drilling to give the county time to look into the issue.
  • At the November 10, 2009 county commission meeting the Peace and Justice Center presented documentation on the well that was drilled in 2006—location map, permit application, capping, etc.—and the Las Vegas Basin White Paper, a report that was commissioned by the group Drilling Santa Fe to analyze the impacts of potential drilling and fracturing in the Basin. The Center also presented this information to the mayor of Las Vegas who imposed a moratorium within the city limits.
  • On December 8, 2009, the County Commission adopted Resolution 12- 08-09-NATURAL RESOURCES, proposing the adoption of a one-year moratorium on conditional use permits for oil, gas or geothermal exploration, extraction, or drilling. A moratorium was passed on January 10, 2010.
  • In early 2010, after a screening of the film “Split Estate” a small group of people (Bob Wessely, Leslie Hammel-Turk, Brad Turk, Barbara Ehrlich, Kim Kirkpatrick, Carole Silon, Pat Leahan, Kate Daniel, Don Shaw, and Arielle Hawney) organized PROTECT San Miguel County to educate themselves and strategize on the issue of oil and gas development.
  • The Las Vegas Peace and Justice Center retained the New Mexico Environmental Law Center as a consultant to help draft an oil and gas ordinance. After consulting with Drilling Santa Fe it learned of Robert Freilich, the land use attorney who helped draft the Santa Fe County Ordinance. Freilich was subsequently hired by the county to help draft the San Miguel ordinance.
  • PROTECT San Miguel County sponsored and participated in many community forums and talks on Community Peace Radio to educate the public. A San Miguel County Oil and Gas Ordinance Task Force had been established and members of PROTECT joined the task force. The task force proved largely ineffective because of obstructionist tactics by the New Mexico Independent Petroleum Association representative.
  • The moratorium on oil and gas development was renewed several times for a total of four years.

While folks in San Miguel County are celebrating the passage of these regulations, neighboring Mora County is navigating tough legal terrain. In 2013 Mora County passed an outright ban on oil and gas development and is now embroiled in two industry lawsuits. Last week, U.S. District Judge Browning heard arguments on a motion for summary judgment in the SWEPI LP (a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell) vs. Mora County lawsuit. Based on his statements in the courtroom—“Some of these provisions are pretty wild; they’re pretty inconsistent with centuries of federal law” —it seems likely that at a subsequent hearing he will rule that either some of the language in the Mora County Community Water Rights and Local Self-Government Ordinance is unconstitutional or that the entire ordinance should be thrown out. Another lawsuit filed against Mora County by private landholders and the Independent Petroleum Association remains extant but settlement negotiations are ongoing.

Ghost Ranch Medicine Water Wheel

IMG_3030IMG_3028IMG_3021IMG_3031IMG_3035IMG_3012IMG_3019IMG_3022Ghost Ranch Medicine Water Wheel

The Medicine Water Wheel being built by the children from Abiquiu schools at Ghost Ranch as part of the youth track Friday at the Water Symposium last weekend, and Grandmother Flordemayo leading the Medicine Water Wheel Ceremony and dedicating the Water Wheel on the Sunday. See you there next year!

water events upcoming

Dear Water Friends,

Here are some upcoming events in Water World. It is raining while I type. Thanks for your prayers and blessings.

In that vein, I would like to draw your attention to an article I wrote in the latest issue of E.P.I.C Magazine, which just had it’s second Northern New Mexico issue out in Santa Fe/Alb./Taos area. It is called Dancing For Rain. (http://epicmag.org/pdfs/abq-march-april-2014/)

In it I mention Marshall “Golden Eagle” Jack, an Indigenous Elder who brought us the Medicine Water Wheel. He will be in New Mexico for a few days, firstly this coming Saturday (March 8th) at the Sacred land in Estancia NM where Grandmother Flordemayo, one of the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers, has a magnificent water wheel, other ceremonial sites and a Seed Library. Below is an invitation from Grandmother Flordemayo and The Path to spend a day with her and Marshall in drumming, ceremony and Circle. Contact us for carpooling, directions and details at healingthescars@gmail.com. Here is a link with directions: http://origin.library.constantcontact.com/download/get/file/1102567038497-198/Map+To+40+Acres.pdf

Information about Marshall and his work: www.waterwheelceremony.com

˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙˙

                This coming Sunday, March 9th, Marshall will be in Santa Fe for one day only and you are invited to join us in a Water Blessing Ceremony at the Medicine Water Wheel in Frenchy’s Park (Agua Fria/Osage, Santa Fe) at 2PM. We will share a pot luck afterwards at the park and in the evening you are invited to an evening with Marshall.  If someone at the Commons or someone with an inviting home would like to host the evening, it would be most appreciated. If you would like to put up Marshall and his companion that Sunday night, that too would be most appreciated. If not, tentatively the evening event will be at J Lynch’s home at 7 PM

REMEMBER THAT THERE IS A CHANGE TO DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME SATURDAY NIGHT

Here is a description of the day’s offerings:
Marshall “GOLDEN EAGLE” Jack
Will be in Santa Fe Sunday March 9th
To share with us his journeys with the “Holy Ones”

Come and be present with One of Our Wisdom Keepers

WATER BLESSING CEREMONY
WORKING WITHIN THE PROPHECIES
HOPI MAYAN ETC.
Spiritual Updates
Star Clusters, Star Alignments Updates:
Mother Earth Movements
Plant Nation. Animal Nation, Water Nation, Climate Changes  Etc…

Talks of what to expect in the near future according to the indigenous

A Water Blessing At the Water Wheel in Santa Fe

ˆˆˆˆˆˆˆˆˆˆˆˆˆˆˆˆˆˆˆˆˆˆˆˆˆˆˆˆˆˆˆˆ

              March 22nd is World Water Day. We will be doing a special Ceremony at 12 Noon in conjunction and harmony with many other groups around the world, here in Santa Fe and in New Mexico. The 13 Grandmothers have put out a call to the Women to gather and will be doing a Women’s Water Ceremony at Montezuma’s Well In Arizona. Here is the link (http://inthenameofthemother.net/world-water-day-water-blessing-ceremony/) Our ceremony is in solidarity with the women and a global momentum and collaboration for the healing of the waters everywhere. I will send out a more detailed notice of the day’s events. There will be healings with individual healers at Edwin Lemus’s La Cocina de Balam, which will be fully operating again. In the evening from about 4 PM on there will be more activities and a ceremony.
If you are planning an event related to World Water Day, please let us know and we will include notice of it in our poster and networking.

œœœœœœœœœœœœœœœœ

           On the weekend of April 4-6th, Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, NM is offering their second Water Symposium and as part of it the youth track will be building a Medicine Water Wheel. Grandmother Flordemayo will be leading a Dedication and Water Blessing at the Water Wheel and sharing an afternoon in lecture and conversation. More details on www.GhostRanch.org (877) 804 4678. We will be sending future updates with more details.
IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO RECEIVE THESE WATER-RELATED NOTICES, PLEASE REPLY WITH “REMOVE” IN SUBJECT FIELDMany blessings,
Raphael Weisman.

Please use water wisely and with reverence.

www.RaphaelWeisman.Wordpress.com

FRACKING BAN

From Santa Fe New Mexican

FRACKING BAN A New Mexico county’s fracking ban is all about the water

A New Mexico county’s fracking ban is all about the water  Roger Alcon tends cattle on his family’s ranch in Mora County on May 16. Alcon’s family has run cattle in the area for five generations, and he supports the county’s ban on drilling for natural gas by using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, even though it would mean money for allowing drilling on his land. Julie Cart/Los Angeles Times

Posted: Sunday, June 2, 2013 10:00 pm | Updated: 11:24 pm, Sun Jun 2, 2013.

By Julie Cart
Los Angeles Times | 5 comments

OCATE — Sitting in the tidy living room of the home they built themselves, Sandra and Roger Alcon inventory what they see as the bounty of their lives: freedom, family, community, land, animals … and water.

“We’ve lived off the land for five generations,” said Roger Alcon, 63, looking out on a Northern New Mexico landscape of high mesas, ponderosa pines and black Angus cattle. “We have what we need. We’ve been very happy, living in peace.”

Wells are the Alcons’ only source of water. The same is true for everyone else in Mora County, which is why last month this poor, conservative ranching region of energy-rich New Mexico became the first county in the nation to pass an ordinance banning hydraulic fracturing, the controversial oil and gas extraction technique known as “fracking” that has compromised water quantity and quality in communities around the country.

“I don’t want to destroy our water,” Alcon said. “You can’t drink oil.”

In embracing the ban, landowners turned their back on potentially lucrative royalty payments from drilling on their property and joined in a groundswell of civic opposition to fracking that is rolling west from Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania in the gas-rich Marcellus shale formation.

Pittsburgh became the first U.S. city to outlaw fracking in November 2010 after it came to light that an energy company held a lease to drill under a beloved city cemetery.

Since then, more than a dozen cities in the East have passed similar ordinances.

The movement leapfrogged west last summer when the town of Las Vegas, N.M., took up the cause, calling for a halt to fracking until adequate regulations protecting public health are adopted.

It has now reached California, where communities are considering similar bans.

Culver City — home to the nation’s largest urban oil field — is drafting oil and gas regulations that call for a moratorium on fracking. Citizen groups in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara are preparing their own community rights ballot measures aimed at outlawing the procedure.

Hydraulic fracturing involves injecting a high-pressure mix of water, sand and chemicals deep underground to fracture rock formations, releasing oil and gas that is hard to reach with conventional drilling methods. A blizzard of applications to sink wells using fracking is spurring a nationwide energy rush sometimes called the “shale gale.”

Among the leading concerns of opponents is the absence of any federal law requiring companies to fully identify the chemicals in their fracking fluids. Such formulas are considered by the industry to be a trade secret. Community-based anti-fracking campaigns — citing public health issues — call for complete disclosure of injection fluids.

Many New Mexico counties welcome oil and gas production, an industry that adds to the tax base and employment rolls. But in sparsely populated Mora County, where 67 percent of the 5,000 residents are Spanish-speaking, people cherish their culture and way of life.

Sandra Alcon said her neighbors don’t care about mineral rights or oil money. They are angry about the way energy companies’ “land men” treated them. Residents here are seen as easy marks for hustlers offering little compensation for oil and water rights, she said.

“They know we have a lot of elderly and rural people; some don’t speak English,” she said. “They don’t know that some of us went to college and some of us have the Internet.

“I may look stupid, but I’m not. I know what they are doing.”

Mora County, using its authority to regulate commercial activity, specifically barred corporations from fracking. The ordinance also established that citizens have a right to a safe and clean environment.

County Commission Chairman John Olivas said the ordinance is not a referendum on oil and gas. Rather, he said, it “is all about water,” estimating that 95 percent of the county’s residents support the ban, although some argue that the jobs and income that accompany drilling would help the depressed area.

Olivas, a hunting and fishing guide, said he grew up watching his parents work in the uranium mines of Eastern New Mexico. When the mines played out, towns shriveled up.

Chasing that boom-and-bust economy is not worth despoiling an environment that remains remarkably untouched and provides a sustainable living for most people here, he said.

“We are one of the poorest counties in the nation, yes, but we are money-poor, we are not asset-poor,” Olivas said. “We’ve got land, we’ve got agriculture, we’ve got our heritage and we’ve got our culture.”

The California community closest to adopting an anti-fracking ordinance is Culver City, which includes a portion of the 1,000-acre Inglewood Oil Field. More than 1 million people live within five miles of the field, where some 1,600 wells have been drilled since 1925.

The City Council is considering a fracking moratorium, even though only 10 percent of the field is within the city limits. The bulk of the wells are in unincorporated Los Angeles County.

City officials and residents say they are concerned about air and water quality, as well as about earthquakes being triggered by drilling at 8,000 to 10,000 feet — the depths where the untapped oil is found.

Low-magnitude earthquakes have been associated with fracking, but Ed Memi, a spokesman for PXP, which operates in the Inglewood Field, called suggestions that high-pressure drilling causes earthquakes “hysterical accusations.”

“There is no evidence that hydraulic fracturing has caused felt seismic activity anywhere in California,” Memi said. “The practice of hydraulic fracturing has been subjected to dozens of studies in recent years, and the fundamental safety of the technology is well understood by scientists, engineers, regulators and other technical experts.”

But Meghan Sahli-Wells, Culver City’s vice mayor, said the city needs to see more study of fracking’s impact before it could be allowed.

“I grew up in L.A. All my life I’ve heard about air-quality problems, earthquakes and water issues,” Sahli-Wells said. “It just so happens that fracking really hits on the three major challenges of this area. Frankly, I’ve been waiting for people to wake up and say, ‘We are fracking on a fault line? Is this really in our interests?’ “

If Culver City moves forward with a moratorium, it could take months to complete, she said.

Fracking is unregulated in California, and no accurate figures exist detailing how many of the state’s wells are completed using the technique.

A number of anti-fracking bills are pending before the state Assembly, and statewide regulations are being finalized by the state Department of Conservation.

Sahli-Wells endorses legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell, D-Culver City, that calls for a moratorium on fracking in California until a comprehensive six-year study can be undertaken.

“Look before you leap” legislation is pending in other states.

On a recent day back in Mora County, Roger Alcon drove his ranch with his herding dog, Pepper, at his side. He said the region’s aquifer has been depleted by oil and gas operations in the region. He sees no reason to hasten the water decline.

Alcon pointed out the truck window toward the snowcapped Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

“We have what we need,” he said. “To me, the fresh air and the land, and water. It’s better than money.”

JourneySantaFe Collected Works

In the wake of the news that New Mexico’s drought is the worst in the nation, and Mora County’s decision to impose a moratorium on fracking, comes this Sunday’s meeting of Journey Santa Fe at 11 AM at Collected Works Bookstore and Café. This is the first of a series on water in New Mexico.Journey Santa Fe presents:
Overview of Water Law, Water Rights and Water Conflicts in New Mexico
with water law specialist Peter White.

Attorney Peter White will present an overview of water law, water rights, and water conflicts in New Mexico. He will follow up in two or three subsequent Journey Santa Fe gatherings to discuss in more detail New Mexico’s water problems, summing up of his work over the past 40 years.

Co-presenter attorney Denise D. Fort, Professor of Law at the University of New Mexico School of Law and Director of the School’s Utton Center, will discuss her booklet WATER MATTERS.
If you get that water is pivotal to our state’s existence, especially during this drought, you will want to attend. See you there.

Albuquerque Journal:

New Mexico’s drought worst in the country

By on Thu, May 2, 2013

POSTED: 7:54 am
LAST UPDATED: 12:07 pm

New Mexico this morning rose to the top of one of those lists of US states that you don’t want to be on. Drought conditions here are now the worst in the nation, according to this morning’s federal Drought Monitor:

http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

The analysts who develop the weekly monitor significantly expanded their designation of “exceptional” drought, their worst category, to include much of the Rio Grande Valley, the state’s most populous region:…