Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Grasshopper Infestation of 2008

The grasshopper infestation of 2008 is chewing up the land at a rate equal to the Bush administration’s oil and gas-drilling frenzy. It is non-stop, it is visibly apparent, and the devastation, nearly complete. Is there a halt in sight?

40,000 acres of State Trust land are on the leasing block for gas drilling in Mora and Colfax Counties. KHL, Inc. landman, Knute Lee, has been discussing this leasing with State Land Commissioner Pat Lyons.

This coming Tuesday, June 17th, at 11:00 a.m., at an advisory board meeting, Drilling Mora County, a group of concerned citizens, will deliver petitions asking Commissioner Lyons not to lease these state trust lands. During the public comment period, all New Mexico citizens can offer their opinion on what they think Commissioner Pat Lyons' responsibility to the state trust land and to the people should be.

The State Land Commissioner's sole purpose is to generate revenue for the New Mexico public schools. There is no environmental responsibility or higher authority to whom the Commissioner must answer while in this office. This gives an eerie autonomy to a person who tugs at the heart-strings of people who wish not only to enjoy these wilderness areas, but to ensure a high quality education for their children, as most funding for New Mexico schools comes from mineral leases on state trust lands.

But when places like Chaco Canyon and Whites Peak are up for lease for oil and gas drilling, the very outcry that education and sacred grounds and the last vestiges of wilderness are the two last straws to chose from, there is definitely something seriously wrong with this picture. Akin to William Styron’s Sophie’s Choice, which do we choose? Who dies? The choice is between her young son and daughter. Our choice is our children’s education versus our state trust land. That was not a choice Sophie could live with. And neither is it a choice we can live with.

They tell us the situation is polarized, with only two options. But there must be other options. If we step outside the box and look at what is possible, we will find solutions. After all, necessity is the mother of invention. We now have reasons to develop new technologies—energy prices rising, coupled with the inescapable knowledge that our oil and gas reserves have peaked. These prices and the shortages might keep people at home more with their families, children, and neighbors. Maybe even evoke a return of the neighborhood community. This could be good.

If, however, we believe what we are told, that “we are in an energy crisis”, and “that we must drill, and we are un-American if we do not,” then we will continue to drill for the last drop available and continue to consume without reflection upon the devastation it is causing. But if we choose a different paradigm, and see that we have a grand opportunity in front of us to make a long needed change, we can have not only our children’s education and our wilderness and sacred sites, but oil and gas for future generations as well.

This will mean a choice. The current administration prefers a consumption paradigm; they would like us to continue to drive our gas-guzzling vehicles to put more profit into their coffers. Last year Exxon Mobil netted $1 million per 10 minutes according to a report last week on N.P.R. (6/4/08). That is $6 million every hour, $144 million every day. $52,560 million in net profit in 2007 from oil and gas revenues. Why, again, is the price of gas so high at the pump? But we can make choices, such as opting for conservation rather than consumption. We can choose to drive energy efficient vehicles. We can incorporate renewable energy into our homes and businesses. Solar is effective and dependable. Wind can supplement the energy grid, and compared to the devastation of oil and gas development, is a very acceptable renewable energy source.

How can we fund our kids’ educations in other ways? Perhaps a tax on vehicles that get fewer than 15 miles per gallon? We could reward those who do conserve and tax those who do not. Freedom is through choice. Democracy is about freedom. We can choose to see that we have an opportunity, or that we are under siege. It is our choice either way.

The Bush administration put a fast-track on coalbed methane and natural gas production this past decade. Water usage is enormous during these extractions—300,000 gallons of fresh drinking water to drill one gas well. On Ted Turner’s Ranch in Colfax County, coalbed methane extraction is causing a serious dewatering of the Raton Basin according to Gwen Lachelt of Oil and Gas Accountability Project (OGAP). In a state where water is a fragile, yet plentiful resource if used wisely, we cannot afford the dewatering inevitably caused from oil and gas development. And besides, the resultant “gas” is not what is sold at the gas stations to fuel our cars. It is natural gas, not “gasoline.” The price at the pumps for gasoline will not be touched when these lands are devastated by the industrial development from oil and gas.

Gasoline prices at the pumps 35 years ago were 25 cents a gallon. Opec’s oil embargo in 1973 created shortages, and prices skyrocketed to $1.25. Today at $4.00 a gallon, gasoline at the pumps is still less expensive than a gallon of bottled drinking water. Which can we live without? Neither will go down in price, of that we are assured. Are we willing to dewater our land for oil and gas production rather than see that this “crisis” is an opportunity for us to make some creative changes in how we live?

Rather than join in the mad frenzy the oil and gas corporations and our current federal government present to us—the paradigm that promotes consumption—think of your dreams and your children’s dreams, and create a better world.


Oil and Water Don’t Mix

Please Join us on Friday, June 20, 2008 at the Oil Conservation Division offices, 1220 S. St. Francis Drive in Santa Fe at 9:00 am and protect our future from the threats of oil and gas.

June 20, next Friday, 9:00 am 1st floor, Porter Hall, Wendell Chino Building, 1220 S. St. Francis Dr., Santa Fe, NM.

Please attend the meeting to support Rio Arriba County and email your support of Rio Arriba County to emnrd.nmocd@state.nm.usThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Rio Arriba County is one of many New Mexico counties fallen victim to the relentless oil and gas industry. Four oil and gas drilling permits have been issued to drill in the historic Tierra Amarilla land grant area east of Chama, NM and another six permits are pending as part of an oil and gas development scheme of a Texas-based oil company, Approach Operating, LLC. Those ten permits are just the start of the development that encompasses over 90,000 acres of the pristine and sensitive Chama watershed. One of the four permits already issued is above 9,900' elevation, very near the absolute top of this beautiful, classic watershed and adjacent to the State designated Scenic Byway on highway 64 between Tierra Amarilla and Tres Piedras. Sadly, Approach has already bulldozed out a drilling site in the mouth of a once beautiful box canyon without the permission of the landowners just five miles south of Tierra Amarilla.

In answer to an outcry from landowners, acequia associations, concerned citizens, and the Rio Arriba County Commission, the State will hold an adjudicatory hearing on all ten drilling permits, (the four issued and the six pending) on Friday, June 20, 2008 at the Oil Conservation Division offices, 1220 S. St. Francis Drive in Santa Fe at 9 am in Porter Hall on the first floor. The offices are in the Wendell Chino Building.

All the abundant natural resources of this remaining sub-alpine landscape are threatened by the massive and unavoidable impacts of oil and gas drilling. Environmental degradation begins with the dirty work of building a drilling site, and continue to mount with related road building and pipeline creation, and carry on for another 30 years, the estimated life of the wells, putting all the innerconnected resources at risk. Heavy traffic, frequent trips, day and night operation, water pollution, air pollution, engine and equipment noise all contribute to a continuing disruption of the natural wonderland that now exists in our special places. Oil and gas drilling immediately endangers the eagles and elk, the deer and bear, the Rio Grande Cutthroat trout, and countless other native New Mexican wildlife that reside in these high elevation habitats. New Mexico Department of Game and Fish assert that native cutthroat trout have disappeared in all but seven percent (7%) of the streams above 5,500'. Adding insult to injury, all the streams in the area that Approach intends to drill are above 5,500'.

It is for the land, water, wildlife, and way-of-life that we ask you to join your fellow community members and speak up in the face of special interests that threaten all that makes New Mexico Enchanted. Stand with your fellow landowners and concerned citizens who would question the State as to why, with only cursory paperwork, it would allow the entire region to be immediately at risk, sacrificing our natural wonders for generations to come. As in the Galisteo Basin and in Mora County New Mexicans are starting to come together and resist by telling our politicians that the risks of oil and gas development are too devastating to compromise our water, our agricultural heritage, our wilderness and wildlife. By coming together as caring New Mexicans, we prove that we will not sit quietly as Mother Nature’s gifts are sacrificed to the rapacious oil and gas industry.

Monday, June 9, 2008

"County Approves Resolution Oposing Potential Oil Drilling In Ortero, NM"--El Paso Times

"By Gustavo Reveles Acosta
The El Paso Commissioner Court today voted 4 to 1 to approve a resolution opposing the potential drilling for oil and natural gas in the Otero Mesa of New Mexico.

Commissioners said they supported a movement to seek federal protection of the mesa by the U.S. Congress.

Commissioner Dan Haggerty voted against the motion, saying the country is currently in a gas crisis.

Environmentalists told commissioners the mesa is a potential water source for the county."

Thursday, June 5, 2008

"Balancing Energy Needs and Safety"--Chemical & Engineering News

THE NATION'S EFFORTS to enhance natural gas production and increase energy independence might bring with them new threats. There are growing complaints that gas drilling, particularly in the Rocky Mountain region, is contaminating water supplies with chemicals and endangering human health.

Some environmental and citizens groups claim that exemptions in federal law are responsible for allowing gas operations to contaminate water and air. To remedy this, they are working for changes in federal, state, and municipal regulations. They have succeeded to a degree on the state and local level. And Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform, is considering legislation that would end some of the gas industry's exemptions from federal environmental laws.

Gas exploration and drilling have increased greatly over the past two decades. According to the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration, between 1990 and 2005, the number of producing gas wells nationwide increased from roughly 270,000 to 425,000. The industry has experienced the greatest growth in Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, and Wyoming.

Waxman and numerous activist groups are especially concerned about the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, a method often practiced to enhance production of gas, composed primarily of methane. The procedure begins with the drilling of a production well. Then, a mixture of water, chemical additives ranging from diesel fuel to guar gum, and sand is injected into the well at high pressure. The mixture, or "fracturing fluid," is put in with enough force to form new cracks in underlying rock. Finally, to prepare for actual gas production, engineers pump the groundwater and injected fracturing fluids out from the network of fractures until the pressure declines enough to allow gas to be released from the sandstone or coal.

"Stop fueling oil and gas exploration misconceptions"--CEO Pat Sanchez

Tecton Energy, LLC , a company that specializes in unconventional tight gas basins (unconventional recovery “UCR”), has purchased tens of thousands acres of mineral leases in the pristine Galisteo Basin and Santa Fe County. However, the viability of production is being questioned.

First and foremost, Atrisco Oil and Gas, LLC is not drilling for oil. We are seeking, through the services of Tecton Energy Corporation, to find clean-burning and clean-producing natural gas, and to develop it as an energy source.

Mr. Sanchez adds, "Bob Gallagher, President of the New Mexico Oil & Gas Association says his industry “stands on it’s 90 plus years of operations in New Mexico, and during that time we have drilled close to 100,000 wells, and not one drop of water, delivered to the consumer, for consumption, has ever been polluted or contaminated by oil and gas drilling activities. These emotional obstructionists will say anything in an attempt to stop our industry from producing oil and gas safely and in an environmentally sound way.”' Interesting. According to the Oil and Gas Accountability Project (OGAP) website , "The New Mexico Oil Conservation Division has detected and documented more than 700 hundred incidents of groundwater contamination from oil and gas facilities across the state. The data can be downloaded from the OCD web site (click here to download a pdf version or an Excel spreadsheet version).

Prior to 1990, only 39 orders were issued against oil and gas companies for contaminating groundwater. The earliest order was issued in 1954. Since 1990, 705 incidents have been recorded, for a total of 743 documented groundwater incidents related to the oil and gas industry in New Mexico.

Of the 743 groundwater contamination incidents, more than half have been caused by contamination from oil and gas industry pits.

Farmaggedon: Small Farms Saving the World

"Local, organic agriculture can cut 30% of greenhouse gas emissions

According to a recent report, organic, sustainable agriculture that localizes food systems has the potential to mitigate nearly 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions and save one-sixth of global energy use. To read the full report, click here to visit the Institute of Science in Society's website."

Farmaggedon is a new New Mexican blog

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

"Be Wary of Landmen"--Dover's Magazine

The oil boom has created a land rush by oil and natural gas companies and speculators looking to lock up drilling rights quickly and cheaply. Landowners are reporting encounters with fast-talking industry representatives using scare tactics to strong-arm owners into signing lowball lease agreements. Some unsuspecting landowners have signed leases granting drilling rights for a fraction of the going rate. Landowners are urged not to rush into signing any agreement and to check with a lawyer familiar with oil and gas leases and regulations. Follow this link for the full story.

"Falling Demand Pressures Crude Oil Prices"--Dover's Magazine

Crude oil prices are nearly $5 lower than last weeks record high of $135 per barrel, as investors and speculators are convinced that demand is weakening. Reports from several media outlets in the past week have carried predictions of significantly higher oil prices, including that of Texas oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens who predicted $150 oil. But several economic measures suggest higher prices are cutting American consumers appetite for gasoline. The national average price for gasoline this week was up 7 cents to a record $3.944 per gallon.

National average prices for diesel also rose to a new record this week, adding a cent to average $4.778 nationally. High diesel prices are pushing the prices of consumer goods and food higher. Gasoline prices already average more than $4 per gallon in 11 states. The Energy Department said that demand for gasoline declined 1.1 percent in March, and they expect to report a decline over the Memorial Day weekend, although that data wont be available until next week. Despite this weeks decline in crude prices, analysts expect gasoline and diesel prices will continue to rise in the coming weeks. - Greg Henderson, editor

Sunday, June 1, 2008

"'Hippie' defense red herring for gas derived profits"--SF New Mexican

It's a sign of our surreal times when the people trying to protect Santa Fe County from the horrors of drilling are blamed for record-high fuel costs. Never mind that the soaring prices are the fault of the international commodities market and multibillion-dollar energy corporations, industry will have you believe it's all because of those damn hippies.

As if there's even enough oil in the Galisteo Basin to make a dent in the national supply. The one well that Tecton Energy operated there, before temporarily abandoning, early this year, produced fewer than 50 total barrels of oil in nine months.

The company probably used more oil to fuel its semi-trucks, generators and drilling rig than it extracted from that dismal failure of a well.

What the company is really after — and is hoping you won't notice — is natural gas. No offense to those of you who know this, but I've heard and read enough bizarre comments to necessitate adding these lines: Gasoline is a nasty distillate refined from oil. There is very little oil left to extract in New Mexico. What I'm talking about is the "unconventional recovery" of natural gas and probably coal-bed methane. By "gas" I do not mean "gasoline."

As with oil, there's no guarantee that whatever gas is trapped deep beneath the surface can be released and recovered. The geologic formations in the Galisteo Basin and surrounding areas are so tight, they make any oil and gas operation risky and costly. It's a gamble, but played with human lives, not poker chips.

Gas drilling is tearing up the Rocky Mountains, from Montana to New Mexico. Live in a gasfield — and I know people who have — and you'll think you've gone to hell. Day and night, flare stacks burn methane, sulfur and other noxious gases — a ticking firebomb in our often tinder-dry land.

Toxic pits of antifreeze, carcinogens and even radioactive substances stagnate on private property, killing any animal that mistakes them for ponds.

County expects new drilling rules by February

Excerpts: Mora County, whose residents have been approached by at least one landman seeking to lease mineral rights in the area, passed an indefinite ban on oil and gas drilling May 20, which will remain in effect until the county finishes a rewrite of the document that governs development in the rural county northeast of Santa Fe. The Mora County Commission chairman said the moratorium will stay in effect until the Development Guidance System is "revised and fitted to the county's needs, whether it takes two months, three months, a year."

Drilling Mora County, an activist group similar to Drilling Santa Fe, has sprung up in Mora. "We are working to help educate people to understand what happens to an agricultural area when an industry like oil and gas comes in," said organizer Kathleen Dudley. "We want people to understand if they choose to have oil and gas come into the county, their way of life will be changed. (But) as long as they are actually choosing it in a democratic process, then it's legitimate."