A job well done by commissioners

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Item 10 on the Agenda at last Tuesday’s regular Commissioners meeting, was a vote on whether to extend the moratorium against drilling (fracking) in San Miguel County for another eight months.

This was the culmination of months of public forums and hearings, gathering thousands of signatures on petitions and “public input” at Commission meetings addressing the debate between the economic “blessings” vs. the certain risk to our most precious resources: our water and the air we breathe.

After hearing from all those present who wished to express support for extending the moratorium, Chairman Nicolas Leger asked if there was anyone who wished to speak against extending the moratorium: you could hear a pin drop in the silence. Not one person rose to approach the podium, as we looked about the room, hoping this would bode well in the vote.

During the voting, our collective breath was held as one by one — Ron Ortega, Marcellino S. Ortiz, Arthur Padilla Gilbert J.B. Sena and Nicolas T. Leger — voted “yes” followed by loud applause and many “thank-you’s” and “gracias!” It was a moment in our proud history when, unlike other communities who succumbed to the oil and gas industry’s bullying, our commissioners bravely chose the greater good — the health and safety of our citizens and the preservation of nuestra tierra.

On behalf of the Committee for Clean Water, Air and Earth, and the residents whose lives would be adversely impacted by allowing fracking in San Miguel County, I would like to thank each and every Commissioner for their votes, particularly given the enormous pressure exerted by land-owners already holding leases in Eastern New Mexico, the oil/gas industry itself and the added pressure at the state level to permit drilling.

We must now wisely use the eight months to work together — our Commissioners and the citizens of this County — to develop a legally binding Community Rights Ordinance that would level the playing field in future negotiations about our economic development by according equal rights and protections to individual citizens and corporate “citizens” (like Shell, Monsanto, etc.). Presently, corporate entities enjoy the rights afforded by billions of dollars, armies of lawyers and lobbyists who daily ply the EPA and Congress with “incentives” to secure exemptions from legislation intended to protect our water and air. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, A Community Rights Ordinance would guarantee that “might does not make right.”

Diana Presser
Committee for Clean Water, Air & Earth