The county’s process for developing oil and gas regulation reeks of corruption.
Lets start with the Citizen’s Oil and Gas Task Force. Half of the people on the task force have financial ties to the oil and gas industry, including Karin Foster, attorney and lobbyist for the Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico. Yes, she sits on the task force, and she represents over 300 oil and gas businesses. Foster’s not even a county resident; She lives in Albuquerque. Why is she on the task force?
We’ve been conditioned to think that giving industry a seat at the regulatory table is reasonable, but the truth its that the practice is absolutely imbecilic. The need for regulation arises because industries are unwilling to do the right thing in the first place, and because their past patterns of behavior, placing profit before the welfare of communities and ecosystems, have resulted in grievous harm to communities and the natural resources upon which those communities depend. Allowing these industries to shape the regulations intended to restrain their own bad behavior is foolish and counterproductive.
But that is what our county officials have done. They put together a task force stacked with oil and gas industry advocates, guaranteeing that there would be gridlock when the well-intentioned on the task force sought to protect the people of San Miguel County. The well-intentioned on the task force appear to have been unwittingly used to lend a false appearance of legitimacy to a process tainted from its inception.
When county officials announced that the task force was not making progress, they were decrying a situation which they themselves created when they set up the task force. They then took the task force’s work and “revised” it. Their recently released draft resolution doesn’t look like a revision of the task force’s work; it looks like they tossed the task force’s work in the wastebasket and substituted their own document, which is a giveaway to Big Oil and a betrayal of county residents. Their “revision” requires only $1 million in liability insurance per occurrence, $2 million in aggregate. How many oil spills have been completely cleaned up for $1 million? The cost of the gulf oil spill has been estimated at up to $700 billion. The Exxon-Valdez spill cost $7 billion, and neither of these have been completely cleaned up.
The bond required for damage done to roads by semis and tanker trucks if Big Oil comes into the county? There is no such bond required.
Texas recently had to cough up $40 million to repair the road damage around the Barnett shale deposit. We can’t afford to be stuck with that kind of bill.
These are just a couple of the highlights, or perhaps low points.
The county officials who are ramrodding this through are not even elected officials; the county attorney, county manager and Planning and Zoning supervisor seem to be running the show while the county commissioners watch passively from the sidelines.
People of San Miguel County, don’t let yourselves be sold out! Stand up and demand an acceptable process, to include an extended moratorium and the re-convening of a citizens task force that represents the citizens and not the oil and gas lobby!
The Committee for Clean Water, Air and Earth