Drilling ordinance hearing is Friday

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By Martin Salazar

The first of several public hearings on a proposed ordinance that would govern oil and gas extraction in San Miguel County is scheduled for 3 to 7 p.m. this Friday at the County Commission chambers on the second floor of the old courthouse building.

The hearing is being held by the county’s Planning and Zoning Commission, which has been asked to give recommendations on the proposal to the Commission at its meeting this Tuesday.

The latest version of the ordinance is available on the San Miguel County website.

This is the first of several public hearings that will be held on the proposed ordinance. The County Commission is also planning to have meetings in Pecos and in the Conchas area. The Pecos hearing is tentatively set for March 25 while the Conchas area hearing is tentatively planned for April 2. Commissioners are also planning to hold hearings in Las Vegas.

The county is hoping to have an ordinance on oil and gas drilling in place by June, which is when its drilling moratorium ends.

The county hired Los Angeles planning and zoning attorney Robert H. Freilich in December 2012 to help develop an ordinance for the county.

A draft ordinance was presented to the county last August, and since then, the Commission and county staff have been reviewing and tweaking it.

The Commission has been informed that the oil and gas industry is interested in the southeastern portion of the county, particularly the Trementina sub-basin of the Tucumcari basin.

The ordinance currently being considered would allow drilling in the eastern part of the county, though it attempts to prohibit drilling near any rivers or streams.

County commissioners have been inundated with pleas from environmental activists asking the county to ban drilling outright and adopt a community rights ordinance that protects the water and land.

Mora County adopted its own community rights ordinance last year, a move that has spawned two federal lawsuits. Plaintiffs in those cases are asking a federal judge to declare Mora County’s community rights ordinance unconstitutional and to invalidate it.

San Miguel County commissioners have already said that they will not implement a complete ban on drilling.