AG responds to Optic editorial

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In a recent editorial entitled “Where was Gary King?” concerning the Mora County Commissioners’ ban on fracking, the Las Vegas Optic and the Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico failed to understand the duties of the State Attorney General in their one-sided tirade against me.

I was mistakenly criticized because I did not “put an end” to Mora County’s approval in April of an ordinance that “bans oil and gas operations in the county.” The editorial ascribed political motivation to me. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

County commissioners are elected independently by the voters of their county and are not subject to the superintending control of the attorney general.

They also are not a client agency of the State’s Attorney General. I believe that I should not lightly attempt to impose my will on local government elected officials.

Per the New Mexico constitution, the Attorney General functions as the state’s chief legal officer and may act on behalf of a county in a criminal or civil case only if the district attorney fails or refuses to act. As far as I know, the local district attorney in Mora has not failed or refused to act on this matter.

The Optic’s misinformed editorial suggests that the residents of Mora County who worry about the impacts of fracking are wrong for wanting to protect their land, air and water. I share their sentiment, and not only is that how I feel about protecting our resources, it also is my duty as the attorney general.

I believe every county in the state that is concerned with protecting their environment should enact high standards for the oil and gas industry to meet before drilling is allowed. Indeed, everyone wins when compromises are made concerning the needs of the industry, the environment and people who live on the land affected.

Gary King
Attorney General of New Mexico