Commissioners must choose

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San Miguel County’s moratorium that bans the state from issuing permits for fracking and drilling will expire Feb. 12, 2013. A decision on whether to ban drilling permanently or allow fracking in the county will be in front of the commissioners within the next eight months. They will be faced with the choice that offers them one of two options — either protect the citizens’ water, air and ecosystems or bring economic growth to the county in exchange for the natural resources, water and natural gas.

We have examples in New Mexico that show us that the decision to drill is the decision that results in health and environmental degradation. San Juan, Eddy and Lee counties, have turned from farming and ranching communities into industrial zones over the past 60-100 years, respectively, as a result of oil and gas development. With some of the highest asthma and cancer rates among the children throughout New Mexico, it is amply clear that their regulatory oil and gas ordinances bring fracking, water depletion, degradation and illness among the people living in fracked and drilled communities.

The San Miguel County Commission has been working on their own regulatory ordinance since the winter of 2010. What many people do not understand about the regulatory system of law is that it actually allows industry access into our community’s greatest wealth — the clean water and our intact ecosystems. The regulatory system will not protect San Miguel County against fracking. This system is the vehicle industry uses by applying for a permit at the state level to get the permission (permit) to develop in our communities. By following regulatory law, it is clear to many that early next winter drilling and fracking will begin in San Miguel County.  

Which decision will the San Miguel County Commission make? Which oath of office will they choose to uphold — the one in which they swore to protect the health, welfare and safety of the citizens, or the oath to protect the state constitution that gives greater rights to corporations than to people?

Kathleen Dudley