Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Mora-Torium-a Great Success May 6th, Mora

250 people came to Mora last night to listen and ask questions of a panel of experts on oil and gas development. Gwen Lachelt, executive director of Oil and Gas Accountabiltiy Project, (OGAP) presented on the impacts of drilling, and Daniel Sanchez, Oil Conservation Division (OCD) compliance officer, spoke on the ideals of government oversight. The panel: Johnny Micou, Common Ground United and Drilling Santa Fe; Oscar Simpson, NM Wildlife Federation; Paula Garcia, Mora Land Grant and NM Acequia Association; Don Schreiber, Rancher, Rio Arriba County; Bill Sauble, NM Cattle Growers Association; Bruce Frederick, NM Environmental Law Center; and Nick Ashcraft, NMSU answered sticky oil and gas questions from the audience.

A haunting and quiet absence of Mora County government did not stop the movement that brought this gathering of concerned Mora County Citizens together. The threat of the degradation of Mora County's water, along with the noise, air and land pollution from oil and gas industry development appeared to galvanize the citizens into calling out for a moratorium as the meeting progressed. Our State Representative Tomas Garcia, however, did show, and gave his support and concern over drilling activities in Mora County and offered support on the state level.

Little opposition came from the crowd, which appeared to hearten the concerned citizen group, Drilling Mora County, who has been working diligently to help bring attention to this Leviathan in their agricultural County over the past few months. Focused upon helping people understand the impacts of oil and gas industry, they are working to build a coalition among the Mora County citizens and to bring the issue to the County government officials. The citizens appear to have a task in front of them. However, the County's Development Guidance System (DGS) prohibits any industry that pollutes and posses a threat to the water, air, land, agricultural way of life and culture of the county.

If Mora County government and the people work together, they have an opportunity to rebuild the agricultural way-of- life. Already, local groups have begun farmer markets and ideas of massive greenhouse production are solidifying. Once the bread basket of New Mexico, Mora County has laid fallow since the 1950s when cheap oil and gas made local food production of little value. But today, rich in water, land and know-how, Mora County is capable of becoming, once again, the agricultural producer for the State of New Mexico.

It was reported, however, that the oil and gas industry is lobbying state officials to change existing State laws to over-ride the power of the County's. Petitions were signed for Commissioner Pat Lyons, State Land Offiice, to request that Mora County state land be kept off the leasing block for oil and gas industry bidding. A petition for a moratorium was also signed to be presented to the Mora County Commissioners. More signatures are needed.

Should oil and gas get a foot-hold in Mora county, it will be equivalent to fighting a land war with China. Agriculture will fall to industry. Water will run slick with oil. Land will stink from oil and gas fumes and the air will be thick with industry. Drilling Mora County asked the crowd to consider what they want for Mora County. And the clock is ticking.