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City oil and gas moratorium urged

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By David Giuliani

Oil and gas drilling just doesn’t occur in rural areas; it happens in cities, too.

As such, the City Council is considering passing a moratorium on such activity in the city limits. The county already did so a few months ago, so it could have time to draft a more detailed ordinance dealing with energy development.

Some New Mexico towns, including Carlsbad, Hobbs and Artesia, have oil and gas wells inside city limits. Seven years ago, a rig in Carlsbad had a blowout, causing the evacuation of part of that town.

Last week, the Las Vegas City Council held the first of two public hearings on whether to enact a moratorium.

Ten residents spoke for the proposed moratorium; no one spoke against it.

“This is an issue of greater importance than many may realize,” said Pat Leahan of the Las Vegas Peace and Justice Center. “Oil and gas drilling has, in fact, been done in municipalities and urban settings. Some of these hazardous wells are within 150 feet of people’s homes, in some cases without even the consent of those families.”

Mayor Alfonso Ortiz said the money generated from oil and gas drilling wouldn’t pay for the damages.

“We can’t be spoiling our environment. It’s not good for Las Vegas or San Miguel County,” the mayor said.

The City Council is expected to hold another hearing next month and then vote on the matter. There are no pending requests for oil and gas drilling before the city.