Saturday, December 12, 2009

County moves toward oil and gas moratorium--Las Vegas OPTIC

By David Giuliani

The San Miguel County Commission has taken its first step toward setting a year-long moratorium on oil and gas drilling permits while it enacts new regulations.

On Tuesday, the commission voted unanimously to publish the proposed moratorium and seek public comment.

As it stands, the county has about a half page of regulations for oil and gas regulations. That’s from a land-use ordinance in 1986 that’s about an inch thick.

County officials say they want a more detailed ordinance specific to oil and gas drilling. This is after oil and gas companies have taken steps toward drilling in Santa Fe and Mora counties.

No requests for permits for oil and gas drilling are pending before San Miguel County.

County Attorney Jesus Lopez said the current ordinance “very summarily and very scantily” addresses the issue of oil and gas permits, including the effects on water availability, the terrain and the environment.

“You don’t have an ordinance that adequately protects the health and safety of the people,” he said. “This is an issue of great concern, as it should be.”

Lopez said the county manager will have a year to get input and expert opinions and compile studies as he works to draft an ordinance. But he said it may well take longer than that.

Commission Chairman David Salazar said he understood that State Land Commissioner Patrick Lyons has already leased out lands around the county for oil and gas drilling. He wondered if state lands fall under the county government’s jurisdiction.

Lopez said the moratorium would apply.

“Any authority given to the State Land Office is still subject to local regulatory authority,” the attorney said.

The commission is slated to vote on the moratorium Jan. 12.

Monday, November 30, 2009

CORE VALUES--Alianza Tierra de Mora

Mora County, New Mexico, is beloved by ranchers, farmers, sportsmen, outfitters and
guides, local business, concerned citizens, outdoor enthusiasts, herbalists, and conservation
groups. In accord with Mora County’s inherent beauty and value, we believe the following:

1. Mora County's rich soil and clean water preserve the historical agriculture
and acequias that are important to the local economy and culture.
2. Mora County's pristine land and rivers are extremely valuable to all county
residents as well as to visitors and tourists.
3. Mora County's unique culture is important to county residents and to the
nation, as examples of our living history.
4. Mora County's forest and plains areas provide essential living space for many
wild animals, and diverse plant life which are also an important aspect of this
pristine, historical area.
5. Mora County's wild lands provide hunting, fishing, firewood, and other
recreation for people throughout the nation, and as such are especially important
in these times of diminishing wild areas.

Based on these values, we believe that it is a profound mistake to exploit this special
place for the principal benefit of the current energy industry. Consequently, Mora County
should be preserved for its culture, biological diversity and small green development,
thereby protected for the benefit of present and future generations of all Americans.

"Core Values"--To Whom it may Concern

November 25, 2009

United Communities of Santa Fe County (UCSFC) is issuing this letter of support for Drilling Mora County and Alianza Tierra de Mora because of their core values which align with our organization’s.

These are really citizen-led organizations that are based on pure empowerment---they feel that members have a public and moral responsibility to make it work for them. Their connection to the land, “La Tierra”, is something that most Americans have lost after the Dust bowl and the Great Depression. Families come first and the land is the link to all generations---not something to throw away or disrespect.

As they live their daily lives in Mora County;they are lovers of the air, water and vistas. Northern New Mexico culture and traditions have been made famous in movies like: Milagro-Beanfield War,Red Sky at Morning, And Now Miguel and Where Angels Go Trouble Follows. With story plots of where: the little guy steeped in tradition is taken advantage of by the rich man immersed in greed---and then the People come together to win the day. The scenes of these movies could have Mora County inserted as the locale and we all would get who the villains are from today…..

The rallying cry: “your participation, your voice ---is vital to our success” brings out the family, friends and neighbors. Acequias associations, parish councils and village elders come together to battle the injustice and the unfairness. These groups knew environmentalism before it was cool and the Green thing to do. The blood that runs in the veins, the water that runs in the streams, the chili that runs into our food; all is thicker than the oil that lines the pockets of Wall Street.

UCSFC knows that when you read this message you will understand what to do. Your action will be appreciated. Thank you again for listening to us.


William H. Mee for the Steering Committee
United Communities of Santa Fe County

Northern Group of the Sierra Club’s Rio Grande Chapter Letter to the Mora County Commissioners

Subject: Mora County letter
1807 2nd St, Santa Fe NM 87505
The Honorable Peter Martinez, Chair, (Laudente Quintana, Gino Maes)
Mora County Commission
Mora, NM
October 22, 2009

Dear Commissioner Martinez (Quintana, Maes):

On behalf of the Northern Group of the Sierra Club’s Rio Grande Chapter, I write to urge you to prevent oil and gas
exploitation of Mora County and to maintain the County’s current development guidance system (DGS).

Based on extensive analysis of proposed oil and gas drilling in Santa Fe and Rio Arriba Counties, we feel certain that oil and gas drilling in Mora County, especially if the DGS is not followed, would be detrimental to the land, water, tradition
and cultural dynamics of the area.

We also ask that the County require perspective drillers in pristine areas to first make the case that there is a strong
likelihood of finding substantial oil and gas recoverable resources prior to any drilling and water well analysis of the
extent of hydrocarbons in well water. There are many non-destructive techniques for assessing oil and gas potential
other than drilling wells. Such an assessment might include analysis of prior attempts to find oil and gas, aerial
investigations, 3-D seismic exploration, geological modeling, and water well analysis of the extent of hydrocarbons in well water.

You should be proud that Mora County’s DGS has been recognized by land use planners as the best rural development
guidance system in New Mexico. Use of the system means that land can remain available for uses such as hunting, fishing, agricultural irrigation, grazing, wood gathering, camping, wildlife viewing, and just soaking up the scenery. Drilling threatens each of these traditional uses.

We recognize there has been overwhelming public support for protection of Mora County, illustrated by public meetings held in the past two years in the County against the concept of drilling in Mora County.

Your prevention of unbridled oil and gas drilling exploration and development in Mora County and maintenance of the
Development Guidance System is truly appreciated.

Ken Hughes,
Conservation Chair

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Stanley Ranch bids on White Peak trust land--Santa Fe New Mexican

By Stacy Matlock, reporter

Call it what you like, the 40,000 acres of prime hunting land in northeastern New Mexico is controversial.

The single envelope in a locked box at the State Land Office after 4 p.m. Tuesday is the opening salvo in the latest fight over access and landownership around the peak. The envelope contained David Stanley's bid to purchase 7,205 acres of state trust land around White Peak. The land was appraised at $6.3 million. Stanley plans to trade the land for 3,336 acres of his private Stanley Ranch land on the east side of White Peak.

It is one of four proposed land exchanges cut between State Land Commissioner Patrick Lyons and four ranchers, including Stanley. Lyons said the exchanges will consolidate state trust lands leading to new public access routes, better hunting opportunities, improved wildlife habitat and more opportunities for other outdoor recreation.

Lyons said something must be done to finally resolve trespass and property damage problems on private land around what he now calls Whites Peak. And he is threatening to yank hunting privileges on the state trust lands if this land swap doesn't go through.

Hunters and others who've grown up using the area aren't buying it. They say it's yet another attempt by the commissioner to close access on a popular road to the area, and say the hunting is just fine as it is. "My personal opinion is if the process had been transparent and sportsmen, hunters and outdoor enthusiasts had been involved and agreed on something, it wouldn't be so controversial," said Danny Cruz, former Springer mayor. "Right now it looks like the state land commissioner, duly elected by the people, representing the people, is filling in for minority private interests."

The New Mexico Wildlife Federation notes the state land office would lose 4,000 acres of trust lands in the Stanley Ranch swap. The state claims the acreage is valued at about the same amount, "but the public hasn't seen the appraisals," said Jeremy Vesbach, executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation. .....more......

Friday, November 20, 2009

Pennsylvania residents sue over gas drilling

By Jon Hurdle

DIMOCK, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Residents of a small rural Pennsylvania town sued Cabot Oil & Gas Corp on Friday, claiming the company's natural-gas drilling has contaminated their water wells with toxic chemicals, caused sickness and reduced their property values.

The lawsuit accuses the company of violating state environmental laws by allowing drilling chemicals to escape from gas wells, where they are used in a technique called hydraulic fracturing.

A Cabot spokesman said the company had not had time to study the lawsuit in detail but said Cabot was in full compliance with Pennsylvania's environmental laws and "disappointed" by the lawsuit.

"We don't see merit in these claims," Cabot spokesman Ken Komoroski said.

The company, like others in the industry, has argued that its drilling processes are safe because chemicals are heavily diluted and are injected into the ground through layers of steel and concrete thousands of feet below the aquifers that are used for drinking water.

The industry says there has never been a documented case of ground water contamination because of hydraulic fracturing.

The case is one of the first to confront the industry over the technique, which critics claim pollutes aquifers with chemicals that can cause cancer and other serious illnesses.

Cabot's drilling allowed methane to escape into private water wells and in two cases caused wellhead explosions due to a gas build-up, the 15 families in the lawsuit claim.

Pat Farnelli, 46, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, told reporters on Friday that some of her eight children suffered stomach cramps after drinking water from the family's well, which is a few hundred yards from a gas well. She ruled out water-borne bacteria because boiling the water didn't help.


The suit is the culmination of complaints by residents of the northeastern Pennsylvania community where Cabot has drilled dozens of gas wells in its efforts to develop the Marcellus Shale, a massive gas formation that underlies about two-thirds of Pennsylvania and parts of surrounding states.

"These releases, spills and discharges caused the plaintiffs and their property to be exposed to such hazardous gases, chemicals and industrial wastes," said the complaint.

The complaint says residents have suffered neurological, gastrointestinal and dermatological symptoms from exposure to tainted water. They also say they have had blood test results consistent with exposure to heavy metals.

Victoria Switzer, a plaintiff who lives about a mile from Carter's home, said she had joined the lawsuit because she had failed to get satisfaction from the state Department of Environmental Protection or her elected representatives.

"Lawyers were the last thing I wanted," she said. "We are not greedy people, we just want some justice." Continued...

New York Drilling Study a Step Forward--Pro Publica

by Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica - October 22, 2009 11:00 pm EST
New York's recently released review of the environmental risks [1] (PDF) posed by natural gas production in the Marcellus Shale offers the clearest picture yet of the chemicals used in the drilling process called hydraulic fracturing.

The document makes public the names of 260 chemicals, more than eight times as many as Pennsylvania state regulators have compiled. The list is the most complete released by any state or federal agency and could help answer concerns about hydraulic fracturing in Congress and in states where gas drilling has increased in recent years.

The review also takes another dramatic step by proposing that in certain situations companies that drill in New York be required to report the concentrations of the chemicals they use to state regulators, thereby creating a suite of information that environmental scientists say is essential to investigating water pollution from drilling. New York would be the first state to make such a demand.

The industry has been reluctant to release information about the chemicals it uses, because it considers them a proprietary trade secret. While New York has made the names of the chemicals public, it seems likely that the data about their concentration will be shared only with state officials.

The 800-page environmental impact assessment also proposes a slew of safeguards for well construction, waste disposal and water protection. If those rules are finalized after the ongoing public review period, New York's environmental protections for gas drilling would be among the strongest in the nation.

"In a number of areas these regulations are more stringent than in other states," said Kate Sinding, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. "As commendable as that is, and wanting to give the department credit where credit is due, the bar set in most other states is so abysmally low, it still begs the question of whether stronger is strong enough."

Environmental scientists have long sought complete information about the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, saying they need it to thoroughly investigate water pollution. Contamination can occur when the chemicals are pumped underground, held in waste pits or trucked to water treatment plants before being discharged back into rivers and drinking water supplies.

Colorado passed regulations last year requiring companies to disclose the names of chemicals, but they apply only to chemicals held in 50-gallons drums or larger. Now the industry is suing Colorado to repeal the group of regulations that includes that clause. In Pennsylvania, environment officials told ProPublica that their list of chemical products used for drilling there was complete, but it names just 39 products and 31 unique chemicals. Congress has been debating a bill to require disclosure, but the industry is fighting the legislation with millions of dollars in lobbying efforts.

New York obtained the names of the chemicals by surveying drilling companies, their contractors and the manufacturers of the chemicals. The Department of Environmental Conservation identified 152 trademarked products and obtained the complete list of their ingredients; it gathered a partial list of ingredients for an additional 45 products.

The review, which was released last month, leaves some environmental concerns unanswered. It offers few specific measures to protect New York City's watershed -- the unfiltered source of drinking water for nearly half the state's population. It says that wastewater will be treated by facilities in New York and Pennsylvania, but does not confirm whether those plants have the capacity to receive Marcellus Shale wastewater or the technology to make that water safe. Critics also complain it does little to describe how several thousand new wells would cumulatively affect air and water quality, leaving the analysis to a per-well basis..........more...........

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Tucumcari Basin exploration for helium-a bi-product of natural gas exploration

The above map is IAC’s activity map for the Tucumcari Basin in Guadalupe, Quay, and San Miguel Counties, New Mexico. Due to the heightened exploration activity in the area, we believe the Basin will be one of the largest producers of helium in the country as it becomes fully developed. Although the highest helium concentrations lie outside Shell’s primary exploratory focus (area in yellow), the entire area is known to possess varying helium concentrations between 0.5% to nearly 1.5%. IAC has varying interests in areas outlined in red comprising nearly 240,000 acres.

Helium is a by-product of natural gas production and is accessed through the hyrdaulic fracturing process.

Information regarding well activity in the area can be found at the New Mexico Oil Conservation Division website (OCD Online)

For more information on activity in the Tucumcari Basin, please read: Shell nurses Tucumcari gas discovery area (Oil and Gas Journal, Feb. 9, 2009)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Health Issues Follow Natural Gas Drilling In Texas--NPR

by John Burnett

Vast new natural gas fields have opened up thanks to an advanced drilling technique. While natural gas is a cleaner burning fuel than coal or petroleum, extracting it is still hard, dirty work. Some people who live near the massive Barnett Shale gas deposit in north Texas, have compliants. Health and environmental concerns are prompting state regulators to take a closer look........go to web page and listen to this report.........

The Halliburton Loophole--New York Times Editorial

November 3, 2009

Among the many dubious provisions in the 2005 energy bill was one dubbed the Halliburton loophole, which was inserted at the behest of — you guessed it — then-Vice President Dick Cheney, a former chief executive of Halliburton.

It stripped the Environmental Protection Agency of its authority to regulate a drilling process called hydraulic fracturing. Invented by Halliburton in the 1940s, it involves injecting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals, some of them toxic, into underground rock formations to blast them open and release natural gas.

Hydraulic fracturing has been implicated in a growing number of water pollution cases across the country. It has become especially controversial in New York, where regulators are eager to clear the way for drilling in the New York City watershed, potentially imperiling the city’s water supply. Thankfully, the main company involved has now decided not to go ahead.

The safety of the nation’s water supply should not have to rely on luck or the public relations talents of the oil and gas industry. Thanks in part to two New Yorkers — Representative Maurice Hinchey and Senator Charles Schumer — Congress last week approved a bill that asks the E.P.A. to conduct a new study on the risks of hydraulic fracturing. An agency study in 2004 whitewashed the industry and was dismissed by experts as superficial and politically motivated. This time Congress is demanding “a transparent, peer-reviewed process.”

An even more important bill is waiting in the wings. Cumbersomely named the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act, it would close the loophole and restore the E.P.A.’s rightful authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing. It would also require the oil and gas industry to disclose the chemicals they use.

The industry argues that the chemicals are proprietary secrets and that disclosing them would hurt their competitiveness. It also argues that the process is basically safe and that regulating it would deter domestic production. But if hydraulic fracturing is as safe as the industry says it is, why should it fear regulation?

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

Monday, November 2, 2009

Opera’s Drilling Plans Strike a Sour Note--New York Times

Compiled by Dave Itzkoff
Published: October 13, 2009

The Santa Fe Opera’s plan to drill for oil and gas in two New Mexico counties is meeting with resistance from local residents, The Associated Press reported. In 2002 the Santa Fe Opera received permission to drill on nearly 27,000 acres in Mora and San Miguel counties as part of a bequest from a donor, who wanted any revenue to be used to support an apprentice program for young singers. More recently residents learned that in April the opera company signed a lease with an independent company that acquires leases on behalf of oil and gas producers. Opponents say the drilling will harm water, air, wildlife and agriculture in the area. “To see an art company sell out the environment, that was a very egregious act as far as I was concerned,” Kathleen Dudley, the co-chairwoman of the watchdog group Drilling Mora County, told The A.P. Charles MacKay, the general director of the opera, said it would seek a resolution that would address its opponents’ concerns.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Plan to Drill on Colorado Plateau Meets Resistance--New York Times

RIFLE, Colo. — Standing in a canyon in hilly terrain, Ken Neubecker cast his fly into a cold stream. Minutes later he had a bite. Thrashing at the end of his line was a speckled green fish, a scarce Colorado cutthroat trout.

Sean Patrick Farrell/The New York Times

Ken Neubecker, president of the Colorado chapter of Trout Unlimited, hopes to preserve the dwindling number of wild spaces.

The Roan Plateau is not pristine like Yellowstone, but it remains wild. Its defenders say it would be polluted by drilling.

Mr. Neubecker was fishing on the Roan Plateau, a high stretch of terrain beloved by hunters, anglers and hikers for its clear streams, herds of deer and elk, and rugged beauty.

“There just aren’t many places like this in the West,” Mr. Neubecker said. “It’s a real gem.”

Energy companies are looking at the Roan Plateau, too — through entirely different eyes. Vast deposits of natural gas are believed to lie beneath the stretch on which Mr. Neubecker was fishing, and the companies want to drill.

“What is really special about the Roan Plateau, these lands in particular, is the incredible energy density beneath it,” said Duane Zavadil, vice president of the Bill Barrett Corporation, a Denver energy company that holds drilling rights to the Roan.

The company’s plans are at the center of a battle over the future of the plateau, one that could influence the fate of thousands of acres in the high country known as the intermountain West.

A last-minute leasing push by the Bush administration put extensive federal lands in Utah and Colorado into the hands of oil and gas companies, including 36,000 acres of the Roan Plateau. The Obama administration has inherited the touchy question of what to do with those leases.

As one of his first decisions, Ken Salazar, the Coloradan who is President Obama’s interior secretary, scrapped a series of disputed leases in Utah. Last week, he announced that he would seek an investigation into other leases that granted favorable terms and low royalty rates for experimental projects to extract oil from shale.

But so far, Mr. Salazar has decided against canceling leases on the Roan, saying that he must uphold the buyers’ rights.

Sporting and environmental groups are suing the government in federal court, demanding that the leases be thrown out, and a preliminary ruling is expected this fall........continued........

Out With the Old West, In With the New--National Geographic

Drilling the West Gallery Photo

1 of 5

Out With the Old West, In With the New
Photograph by Joel Sartore

Sixth-generation New Mexico rancher Linn Blancett moves what's left of his herd past a gas pipeline compressor station built on former rangeland. The Blancetts once ran hundreds of cattle on 32,000 acres (13,000 hectares) of private and leased federal land, which now has about 450 gas wells and nearly 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) of roads and pipelines. High demand for clean-burning natural gas—an abundant resource in the U.S. that's increasingly used to fuel high-efficiency power plants—has ignited a gas boom in the Rocky Mountains. Many Westerners welcome the infusion of cash, royalties, and jobs. Others see their way of life being changed forever.

WATER: Coalbed methane decision adds salt to Mont. farmers' wounds--Land Letter

Scott Streater, special to E&E

Roger Muggli has worked his family's 1,700-acre farm in east Montana almost the entire length of his 61 years, and he considers the nearby Tongue River to be the very lifeblood of his alfalfa and barley crops.

But three years ago, something happened to the river's water, Muggli said, as routine irrigation began turning the Custer County farm's once-rich soil the consistency of mayonnaise. The soils could not hold the plant material, he said, and within weeks, large sections of his crops turned yellow and died.

"It looked like this slime had fallen out of the sky," he said. "I picked up a handful of dirt, and it just squirted all over the place. It was terrifying."

The culprit was salt in the river water, which when mixed with clay soils turned the cropland into a soggy mush.

Muggli and Montana state regulators believe the high salt content is at least partly the result of deep groundwater extraction by coalbed methane (CBM) operations in neighboring Wyoming -- one of the nation's leading producers of coalbed methane. The water, pumped by the millions of gallons from coal seams to help coax gas to the surface, is then routinely pumped back into the Tongue River and other watersheds by CBM operators, where it indiscriminately mixes with downstream water supplies.

In an effort to protect farmers like Muggli from upstream CBM discharges, Montana -- with U.S. EPA's backing -- adopted stringent water quality regulations governing salinity in its portions of the Tongue, Powder and Little Powder rivers, all of which drain from Wyoming.

But Montana's regulations are now in jeopardy following a Wyoming federal judge's ruling this month that held EPA, when approving the regulations, failed to properly review studies and other arguments made by the natural gas industry that Montana's water-quality standards "were not based on sound science."

Tongue River
The Tongue River is one of several shared waterways between Wyoming and Montana that has become subject to a legal battle between the states over coalbed methane water discharges. Montana regulations aimed at limiting high-sodium wastewater from CBM operations were struck down in federal court. Photo courtesy of USGS.

What's more, "The EPA simply has failed to articulate the basis for its action," U.S. District Judge Clarence Brimmer in Cheyenne, Wyo., wrote in an Oct. 13 ruling stemming from an industry lawsuit challenging Montana's regulations. CBM producers have argued, among other things, that the regulations would stifle domestic energy production at a time when the Obama administration has made it a national priority.

The state of Wyoming has also argued in court filings that it is not required under the Clean Water Act to ensure industry compliance with Montana's water-quality standards.

Brimmer's ruling, while up for appeal, has left Montana regulators and their federal counterparts scrambling for a solution to what many in Montana believe could become the West's next major water war. While Montana's salinity standards continue to apply to CBM operations at home, officials say cleaning up the water coming from Wyoming is paramount to protecting Montana's cropland and ranchland.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Gas Company Won’t Drill in New York Watershed--New York Times

Published: October 27, 2009

Bowing to intense public pressure, the Chesapeake Energy Corporation says it will not drill for natural gas within the upstate New York watershed, an environmentally sensitive region that supplies unfiltered water to nine million people.

Marcellus Shale is believed to hold substantial gas reserves.

The reversal seems to signal a more conciliatory tone from the gas industry, which is facing mounting opposition in New York to its drilling practices. The decision also increases the pressure on state regulators to reverse their decision to allow drilling within the watershed.

“We are not going to develop those leases, and we are not taking any more leases, and I don’t think anybody else in the industry would dare to acquire leases in the New York City watershed,” Aubrey K. McClendon, the chief executive officer at Chesapeake Energy, said in an interview on Monday in Fort Worth. “Why go through the brain damage of that, when we have so many other opportunities?”

He spoke on the eve of the first scheduled hearing on proposed state rules governing the drilling, on Wednesday in Loch Sheldrake in Sullivan County.....continued........

Alberta residents ‘dancing’ over ruling on sour gas wells-Edmonton Journal

By Darcy Henton,
October 28, 2009
6:56 PM

EDMONTON — Rocky Rapids-area residents are rejoicing after the Alberta Court of Appeal ruled they were wrongly denied their rights to oppose the drilling of a pair of potentially deadly sour wells, 140 kilometres southwest of Edmonton.

The court released a decision Wednesday that could dramatically increase the number of people that must be consulted before future wells containing deadly hydrogen sulphide can be drilled in Alberta.

The court ruled the Energy Resources Conservation Board erred Jan. 16 when it decided three women residing in homes three to six kilometres from the Grizzly Resources Ltd. wells failed to show they would be “directly and adversely affected” by the development.

The residents — Susan Kelly, Lillian Duperron and Linda McGinn — claimed they should have a right to oppose the wells because they resided in an area the ERCB defined as a protective action zone (PAZ) where outdoor pollutant concentrations of hydrogen sulphide gas could cause “life-threatening or serious and possibly irreversible health effects.”

The appeal court, which heard arguments Sept. 4 in Edmonton, said the board’s own definition “indicates those who live in a PAZ could have their rights directly or adversely affected as a result of a hazardous release.”

“It is difficult to see how any other conclusion could be available,” said the appeal court panel of Justices Jean Cote, Peter Martin and Myra Bielby. “Should the wells leak and the wind be blowing from the southeast, poisonous gas could be blown over and into the appellant’s homes and farms.”

Although the wells have been drilled without incident, the court said the issue is still relevant because the wells are not yet in production........ continued..........

Thursday, October 22, 2009

CANADA: Govt Threatens Tar Sands Activists with Anti-Terror Laws--IPS News Canada

By Chris Arsenault

VANCOUVER, Oct 20 (IPS) - The provincial government in Alberta, Canada is threatening to unleash its counterterrorism plan if activists continue using civil disobedience to protest the tar sands, Canada's fastest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

In recent weeks, Greenpeace has staged three daring protests inside tar sands mines, temporarily shutting down parts of the world's largest energy project. On Oct. 3 and 4, activists blocked construction of an upgrader needed to refine heavy tar sands oil, belonging to Shell in Ft. Saskatchewan, Alberta.

Civil disobedience from Greenpeace, leading to 37 arrests, has enraged Alberta's conservative government. "We're coddling people who are breaking the law," complained Premier Ed Stelmach during a media scrum in early October.

"Premier Stelmach's public suggestion that he will use the 'force of the law to deal with these people' confirms his lack of knowledge of the limits of his authority and the clear rule that our system of justice cannot be interfered with or manipulated for political reasons," responded Brian Beresh, the defence lawyer representing arrested activists, at a news conference in Edmonton.

Legal scholars, including University of Alberta law professor Sanjiv Anand and Tom Engel of the Criminal Trial Lawyers Association, have criticised the provincial government for attempting to politicise legal proceedings.

"We're going to be working very closely with industry and our solicitor general will be reviewing all of the guidelines we have in place," said a visibly irritated Premier Stelmach in early October.

Fred Lindsay, the solicitor general, went a step further, suggesting the province might use its counterterrorism plan against future protests.

"I think there is an agenda in linking Greenpeace to concerns about terrorism," Bruce Cox, the executive director of Greenpeace Canada, told IPS. Cox is being charged with mischief and faces a fine of more than 5,000 dollars for his participation in the civil disobedience.

The recent campaign began on Sep. 15, when 25 Greenpeace activists snuck into Shell's Albian sands mine in northern Alberta, chaining themselves to a three-storey high dump truck and hanging huge banners to coincide with meetings between Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington.

Shell officials temporarily shut down the site. Shell was targeted again in early October at its Ft. Saskatchewan upgrader.

On Sep. 30, activists canoed down the Athabasca River into a tar sands facility operated by Suncor. They blocked a conveyer belt which moves heavy oil, causing a temporary shutdown of Canada's second largest oil sands mine. Suncor didn't respond to repeated requests for comment from IPS......continued.....

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Possible Drilling Enrages Some

10 October 2009
By Lee Einer

The Santa Fe Opera is revisiting its decision to lease nearly 27,000 acres of shared mineral rights to drill for oil and gas in the Las Vegas Basin.

The move comes after an outcry by environmentalists, activists and others in the area.

Charles MacKay, director of the Santa Fe Opera, said he had signed the lease without first examining all of the implications.

“While we believed we were acting in accordance with the donor’s wishes that her gift would generate long-term support for our apprentice program, we did not explore what other options might be available to us, and now we are seeking counsel and wide consultation to better understand the situation and where we might go from here,” MacKay said.

MacKay said that when he signed the lease, he was unaware that the Wind River Ranch, a 5,000-acre conservation ranch, was affected. He also said he was unfamiliar with the oil and gas industry’s practices.

MacKay said a conservation easement is a possibility.

“As to whether the lease will be broken or revisited, that is something that I’m not qualified to determine. That is why we need counsel and consultation to better examine the options available to us,” MacKay said. “I will be working closely with the board as we consider our options in the coming weeks. We’ll do everything possible to move in the direction of positive resolution.”

MacKay said the board is revisiting its mission and vision statements in light of the issues raised by the lease.

“It’s an excellent opportunity for us to clarify and pinpoint our position on this so we don’t find ourselves in a similar position in the future, ever, ever, again.”

The land that would have been affected by the lease lies between N.M. Highway 518 and Interstate 25 between Sapello and Watrous. It extends into both San Miguel and Mora counties and is close to Lake Isabella.

Under the doctrine of “split estate,” landowners own the surface of their land. The rights to subsurface water, oil, natural gas and other mineral wealth are separate.

Under two antiquated laws, the Stock Raising Homestead Act of 1916 and the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, the federal government, through the Bureau of Land Management, can auction off those subsurface mineral rights to private parties.

Having done so, the owner of the surface property cannot, except under extraordinary circumstances, deny owners of the subsurface mineral estate their rights to access, explore and develop those mineral rights.

This means that farmers and ranchers on the land in question may find their livelihoods disrupted by bulldozers, drilling and other development on their land. And there is little, legally, that they can do about it. ......continued......

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Drilling lease gets Santa Fe Opera in hot water

Tacoma Washington News Tribune
By DEBORAH BAKER; Associated Press Writer
Published: 10/09/09 4:52 pm

Residents of pastoral Mora County have been watching records in the county clerk's office ever since the oil and gas industry began eyeing a big swath of land in the area.

What they found on file recently was a stunner: The Santa Fe Opera had given permission to drill on nearly 27,000 acres in Mora and neighboring San Miguel counties.

Turns out the opera company had been given the mineral rights in 2002 as part of a bequest from a longtime donor. She specified that it be used to support an apprentice program for young singers.

Drilling foes worry that oil and gas wells will pollute water and air, harm wildlife and ruin the quality of life in the agricultural area. They are outraged that an internationally recognized institution like the Santa Fe Opera could potentially profit from oil and gas drilling.

"I was shocked to see that the Santa Fe Opera's name was on this lease," said Kathleen Dudley, an artist and musician who has a small farm near the community of Ocate and co-chairs the watchdog group Drilling Mora County.

"To see an art company sell out the environment, that was a very egregious act as far as I was concerned," Dudley said.

When the opera lease, signed in April, came to light a few weeks ago, general director Charles MacKay said the opera was simply making a financially responsible decision. The opera received an upfront payment of $150,000 and stands to get a cut of future proceeds from the lease.

But the ensuing outcry has the opera changing its tune, with officials saying they will try to find a resolution that addresses people's concerns.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Gas Drilling Vs. Drinking Water: New York City Consultant’s Report Sets Stage for Fight With Albany

September 8th 2009

By Abrahm Lustgarten
(A version of this story appeared in the Albany Times-Union today.)
A preliminary report from a consultant hired by New York City warns that "nearly every activity" associated with natural gas drilling could potentially harm the city’s drinking water supply and that while the risk can be reduced with strict regulations, "the likelihood of water quality impairment … cannot be eliminated." That assessment contrasts sharply with the picture presented by an environmental review released by state officials last week. The issue also appears to be emerging as a point of controversy in New York City’s mayoral election.

To Drilling Mora County From the Director of the Santa Fe Opera

This message is sent in response to your recent email voicing concern regarding The Santa Fe Opera’s lease agreement for mineral rights in Mora and San Miguel counties. We appreciate your comments and recognize the importance of the points you raised. We are taking a careful look at the entire situation in order to better understand the options available to us. I assure you that we will take the opinions of the public very seriously.

Charles MacKay
General Director

Drilling In Mora County--Taos Daily News

October 08, 2009 - 10:13 am

By Aravis Kurtiz

Mora County has a long history of agriculture and farming—and was once known as the “breadbasket” of Northern New Mexico. Mora County has abundant wildlife, a clean water supply, a functioning acequia system, and a uniquely pristine environment. This sustainable way of life may soon crumble under industry's footsteps. Recently there has been an interest in drilling for natural gas in Mora Co...

Drilling Mora County is a growing group of citizens concerned about the proposed drilling in Mora County. Our mission is “To protect and preserve the water, land, air, health, and culture, of Northern New Mexico by educating people about the adverse impacts of oil and gas exploration and production within our region.” We hold public meetings in Mora at Tapetas De Lana at 6:30 P.M on the second Thursday of every month and at the Ocate Community center in Ocate at 6:30 P.M on the fourth Thursday of every month. The public is welcome to attend. On August 20th, we were featured on Cultural Energy's show airing on KTAO, which can be accessed in their website archives (

The oil and gas industry came to Mora County offering wealth in tax contributions and questionable mineral leases in exchange for a degraded water supply, damaged environment, and a multitude of health risks. While we may not be a monetarily wealthy community, we are rich in our water, health, wildlife, and clean environment.


County vs. Wildcats

Briefs: Oct. 7
By: Dave Maass 10/07/2009

County vs. Wildcats: The 2007-2008 battle to keep oilmen from drilling in the Galisteo Basin was just the start of what has now become a regional war over mineral rights.

The next rumble kicks off at the Oil Conservation Commission hearing, scheduled for 9 am, Oct. 7 at Porter Hall, 1220 S. St Francis. At the top of the docket: the Rio Arriba Board of County Commissioners’ motion for the cancellation or suspension of four drilling permits issued to Approach Operating. The RAC claims the wells will “cause waste, violate correlative rights and/or be injurious to human health and the environment.” Approach will make a motion for the approval of 20 new drilling permits in Rio Arriba County.

Approach is represented by attorney J Scott Hall, who also was hired by the Santa Fe Opera to broker a deal in which the Opera and College of Santa Fe would lease 27,000 acres worth of mineral rights in Mora and San Miguel counties.

Those mineral rights were leased to J Bar Cane, the same Stanley NM-based energy company that bought up the Galisteo Basin rights and sold them to Tecton Energy.

A network of anti-drilling activists, including Drilling Santa Fe, Drilling Mora County and the Las Vegas Peace and Justice Center, are preparing. At Tapetes de Lana in Mora on Oct. 8, Drilling Mora County will run a training camp on how to dig up documents and track leases, as well as how to find where the oilmen plan to strike next.

Opera Is Shirking Its Responsibility--Albuquerque Journal North Op-Ed

By Linda Spier

As a lifelong resident of Santa Fe, New M. who remembers the beginnings of the Santa Fe Opera, I find it unbelievable and unacceptable that the Opera leased mineral property within the highly sensitive, pristine and fragile ecosystem of the cultural- and water-rich Las Vegas Basin.
News is traveling that Mr. MacKay did not put his signature on the line without the urging and backing of the mostly out-of-state board.
MacKay stated that the Opera "had no recourse other than to sell or lease these rights in order to maximize their benefit to the Opera and to meet the organization's fiduciary obligations."
Mr. MacKay needs to do his homework and the board needs a reality check. Mineral rights owners can negotiate for higher royalties. All four leases pertaining to this mineral property are exactly the same, with the most basic royalty interest agreed to — one eighth of a share. Three leases are signed on the same day. The missing link is whether or not the College of Santa Fe signed a lease also and, if so, who signed it on behalf of the College and who is the beneficiary?
There are no surface protection agreements: This can only be understood as a callous disregard for the citizens of New Mexico by each and every person who signed these leases.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Santa Fe Opera Reconsiders Decision on Drilling in Vegas Basin--Las Vegas OPTIC

BREAKING NEWS: Santa Fe Opera reconsiders decision on drilling in Vegas Basin
October 6th 2009
By Lee Einer

The Santa Fe Opera is revisiting its decision to lease nearly 27,000 acres shared mineral rights to drill in the Las Vegas Basin.

The move comes after an outcry by environmentalists, activists and others in the area. They say that oil and gas activity could hurt the environment.

Charles MacKay, director of the Santa Fe Opera, said that he had signed the lease without first examining all of the implications.

"While we believed we were acting in accordance with the donor's wishes that her gift would generate long-term support for our apprentice program, we did not explore what other options might be available to us. and now we are seeking counsel and wide consultation to better understand the situation and where we might go from here," MacKay said.

MacKay said that when he signed the lease, he was unaware that the Wind River Ranch, a 5,000-acre conservation ranch, was affected and was also unfamiliar with the oil and gas industry's practices.

MacKay said a conservation easement is a possibility.

"As to whether the lease will be broken or revisited, that is something that I'm not qualified to determine. That is why we need counsel and consultation to better examine the options available to us," MacKay said. "I will be working closely with the board as we consider our options in the coming weeks. We'll do everything possible to move in the direction of positive resolution."

MacKay said the board is revisiting its mission and vision statements in light of the issues raised by the lease.

"It's an excellent opportunity for us to clarify and pinpoint our position on this so we don't find ourselves in a similar position in the future, ever, ever, again."

For more on this story, see Friday's Optic.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Another Letter to the Santa Fe Opera Director, Charles MacKay

Dear Mr. MacKay,
As a resident of Mora County and a long time student of opera, I write to you to protest your ill-considered action in signing contracts with a group of oil companies. I am afraid that you have, very early in your tenure as director, precipitated the largest crisis in the history of the Santa Fe Opera. I urge you to reconsider your decision
and to withdraw from the contracts. It would have been prudent if you had made your negotiations public before you signed. Instead you have alienated friends of the opera and involved our opera company in what may be a long legal battle with those who wish to protect the state of New Mexico and two of its unspoiled counties from wanton destruction. The last thing you should want to be is Nemico della patria (Andrea Chenier III; try Merrill or Zancanaro) either of these should give you the meditative climate for you to rethink what you have done.

Ted Riccardi
Golandrinas, New Mexico

"Residents Not Told About Land Deal -Sound of Silence"-Albuquerque Jounral North

Opinion Editorial Albuquerque Journal North October 4th 2009

Residents Not Told About Land Deal: Sound of Silence

By Kathleen Dudley

It's the wind in the cottonwood trees and the stillness at dawn and dusk, crowing roosters and lazy, dusty, meandering lanes in Mora County that draws one's breath into oneself and makes this land palpably breathtaking. The sharp, crisp, autumn air, and the sweet, pure water of the high mountain region assuage our souls and spirits and give meaning to life. Nature does that to those who stand in her presence and honor her gifts — all 1,244,160 acres.

This is about to change, or so we are told by Shell LTD, who stated in July 2009 that they will begin development within a year. However, the silence around the impending oil and gas explosion in Mora County remains otherwise shrouded in secrecy with the exceptional absence of a public process. No survey, no meetings to inquire what the citizens want for their county, just the stillness "idyllic Mora County" presents to those who revel in its beauty.

The commission is not talking, the planning and zoning committee is not talking, the county land use administrator is not talking. The only person who would talk is no longer county manager — our 11th county manager in 10 years!

At the time Tecton and KHL Inc. began their departure from Santa Fe County in 2007-2008, Knute Lee arrived here in Ocate, sponsoring a barbecue to announce that wealth was about to arrive to the fifth-poorest county in New Mexico. Mineral leases were their game and extraction was their goal. And only those whom they contacted would know what was about to happen in this county. continued........

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Santa Fe Opera, Vandegrifts and Dr. Alexander lease their mineral rights in San Miguel and Mora County

And who owns the surface property? This is being determined by Drilling Mora County. The first area mapped shows the 36,000 acres of land in San Miguel and Mora Counties of which 26,747 acres of mineral rights have been leased by the four parties to J Bar Cane. One of those parties, Santa Fe Opera director, Charles MacKay, states that it is his fiduciary responsibility to lease the mineral rights for the financial support of the opera. However, the opera's guidelines for gifts is more delineated than that. See for the full scoop. MacKay's actions were obviously efficient and precise, yet irresponsible to the landowners and neighbours in the counties where oil and gas development is being opposed.

The lease MacKay signed gives drilling companies the legal right to build worker housing, run roads
and lay pipes anywhere across the surface owner's land they choose (even if it might be the alfalfa field), and extract their water along with setting up gas wells and running compressors 24/7 at their discretion. In fact, if the water wells run dry or contaminated, all in a days work. This "highway robbery" is done with only the Surface Owners Protection Act for the land owner--which essentially gives them no rights what-so-ever. There is no law even enforcing the mineral owner to notify the surface owner that the leases are being considered for sale or are sold.

The map above shows four rough groupings of squares, each one apparently representing one of the four lessors of mineral leases. Each small square within these areas represents a square mile or 640 acres. The 26, 747 acres lie some where inside these squares which make up the 36,000 acres of land.

The four parties who leased mineral rights are
1. Dr. Marcia Alexander
2. Lyn M Vandegrift and Byron and Margaret Vandegrift
3. Joan Mary Vandegrift
4. Charles MacKay, Santa Fe Opera

Physical mapping of these properties shows approximately 7,000-8,000 acres in the Mora Land Grant, Mora County, with the balance in San Miguel County, including the San Miguel Land Grant. The 26,747 acres cross Interstate 1-25 in two places.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Drilling Mora County Media Chair writes to the Santa Fe Opera Director, Charles MacKay

Mr. MacKay,
I am a resident of Mora County concerned about the proposed oil and gas drilling here. I was appalled to learn that you had leased more than 26,000 acres worth of mineral rights in Mora and San Miguel Counties. I find it reprehensible that an organization dedicated to the arts would sign away mineral leases in counties that are resisting unregulated oil
and gas development.

You have cited financial need as your reasoning for signing this lease. I expect however, that you will find your attendance numbers dropping due to the moral discrepancies you have displayed by leasing the minerals of this land on which you do not live. I am deeply saddened that, while my tax dollars have been given to your organization, you would rather assist in destroying the water, health, and environment of myself and fellow county citizens than find another way to fund your programs. While you have mentioned your “history of environmental commitment” your words resound with hypocrisy.

If the Santa Fe Opera was genuinely committed to preservation of the environment, this lease would have never been signed. I find this leasing of mineral rights in our underprivileged county to be against everything I previously believed the arts stood for. Much art is inspired by nature. I doubt many artists find gas wells and the toxic cesspools that accompany them to be very conducive to their expression of art.

It is my hope that, as a respected organization in good standing with the residents of New Mexico, you will reassess the way you make decisions and develop some concern for the way these decisions impact surrounding communities.

Aravis Kurtiz
Media chair, Drilling Mora County

Letter to the Santa Fe Opera Director, Charles MacKay

Dear Mr. MacKay,

I was truly shocked to learn that you have sold the gas and oil exploration rights to land co-owned by the Santa Fe Opera in San Miguel County.

You have justified the move by citing an obligation to continue programs for young opera apprentices. But you are robbing Peter to pay Paul. How can you protect one group of young people while jeopardizing the health and well being of other young people, the ones who live in Mora and San Miguel counties? That is hypocrisy indeed.

If the Santa Fe Opera needs money so badly, why did you not first put out a fund drive and appeal to all of your supporters?

If, after considering all options, you felt compelled to lease the rights, why did you not insist on stringent environmental safeguards?

It is pointless to speculate whether you would have sold the right to drill right underneath and around the Santa Fe Opera to these ruthless companies, because wiser, more principled heads than yours have prevailed in Santa Fe County, making it illegal. So you exploited a poorer, less educated county, instead. Your action speaks volumes about the elitist attitudes some people ascribe to urban cultural institutions. Let a county where the folks are poorer and less
educated take the pollution, the ugliness, the terrible health hazards leading to untimely deaths and disease. Let us take the money.

I hope you realize that you made a terrible mistake. I urge you to say so publicly; to apologize to all those you have offended and all those you will be wounding in the future with your actions; and to see what you can do to make amends. My husband and I love the opera, but no longer the Santa Fe Opera. I am sure there are many like us.


Ellen Coon
Golondrinas, New Mexico

Considering the Proposed Amendments to the Sites SW revision of the Mora County CLUP by Shell Corp

by Don Shaw, Drilling Mora County

Take each amendment Shell makes to Sites SW proposed CLUP and list them in order in a left hand column. Then in the right hand column make an interpretive note of the recommended amendment in terms of what liabilities it relieves Shell of if they pursued O&G development in Mora County.

You will find the sum of these suggested amendments frames a working profile for Shell of no liability, no responsibility to stated CLUP goals, no county Ordinance regarding performance and no limits or liability from working extraction in the County.

The only recognized restrictions or controls are the State and Federal laws already on the books and none of which protect the Counties CLUP stated goals regarding the land, air, water or infrastructure nor in any way its citizens.

To agree to these changes verges on a criminal act especially considering the Mora CLUP was written with stated goals to specifically protect the County and its Citizens.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"Traitorous Libretto"--Santa Fe Reporter

By: Zane Fischer 09/30/2009

Think you own your property? Think again. The tricky “split estate” law has been screwing New Mexico and the rest of the West since its inception. The purchase of land that includes water and mineral rights is rare indeed in these parts—usually those rights have been sold off long before the present-day owners bought their so-called property.

Most people don’t realize they only own the surface of their land; what lurks beneath is the property of others to do with as they please.

A split estate is the legal—oh how should we put it?—or bullshit term for delineating land divided between a surface estate and a mineral estate. And, yeah, that’s most land in New Mexico.

The kicker? Mineral estates generally take legal precedence over surface estates. In other words, let’s say you own a couple of acres: You worked your ass off to buy the plot and, luckily, you’re still able to work your ass off to keep up with the mortgage. It’s a bitch, but at least you’re building equity and you know the ground you sleep on is home to you and yours, and no one can take that away from you as long as you hold up your end of the bargain.

Unless, of course, the owner of the mineral rights decides to roll up and start extracting helium or coal-bed methane or any number of other bits of nasty, polluting, water-table-depleting sorts of stuff in the ground that might be traded for cold, hard cash. The actual ground can’t be taken from you, but the earth below can be pillaged, and the equipment required for the rape can be erected outside your front door.

To put a finer point on this, take the case of the Santa Fe Opera (as first reported Sept. 24 by SFR on, with several updates since).

In a 2002 gift from the Shellaberger estate, the opera and the College of Santa Fe were given joint ownership of a share in mineral rights to more than 26,000 acres in Mora and San Miguel counties.

In 2009, the opera (acting with the urging of CSF) agreed—along with three other owners—to lease those rights out for oil and gas exploration. None of the parties—including the opera and CSF—own the land or the water rights, but they control the mineral estate, which impacts both the quality of any profits generated from the land and the ground water. In return for leasing their share, the opera and CSF are set to receive a modest fraction of profits from extracted treasures. Hey, fair play, the opera is a struggling nonprofit and its mission is opera, not the environment.

That’s the line that SFO General Director Charles MacKay took in a Friday, Sept. 25 statement to the press. MacKay claimed that leasing out the mineral rights was the only way to honor the bequest it had received and to ensure the opera meets its significant fiduciary responsibilities (to learn more about what MacKay has to say on this issue here. The college, as we know, continued to grasp at every monetary straw it could find, until its purchase by the City of Santa Fe was completed earlier in September.

However, CSF maintained ownerhip of the mineral rights in the deal. It remains unclear what the soon to be defunct entity will do with those rights.

As anti-drilling activists in Mora County point out, it’s unlikely the opera or CSF would have had the hubris to do a similar deal in Santa Fe County—it would be too obviously politically incorrect—but both were apparently happy to cut a deal in a place perceived as somewhere else. Never mind that the college was quietly scheming to profit even as it vied to be taken over by San Miguel County-based Highlands University in a deal killed by the New Mexico Legislature.

As much as we routinely suspect our corporate citizens of generally illicit behavior, we have a tendency to assume that our nonprofit corporations will uphold a higher standard in their business dealings. Frequently, that happens to be true. But this situation has demonstrated, once again, that even adored, creative, cultural and educational producers can be guilty of putting greed before citizenship.

The issue is less the money that may or may not be made, but the failure to understand the potential impact of the actions. The extraction of coal-bed methane, for example, can damage a water table to the extent that it takes 10,000 years to recover. That’s an instant sea change in culture, livelihood, food production, wealth and future for thousands and thousands of people. It may not happen this year or 10 years from now, but the opera and CSF knowingly mortgaged the futures of Mora and San Miguel counties’ landowners for little more than a gamble. And the college did so from its deathbed, knowing that the deal would neither save nor sink it.

Sounds like a juicy libretto, right?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Opera: Finances Led to Drilling--Albuquerque Journal North

by Polly Summar
staff reporter

front page September 26th 2009

The Santa Fe Opera's general director says financial obligations led the opera to lease mineral rights it owns on land north of Las Vegas, N.M., for oil and gas drilling.
Opera general director Charles MacKay signed a lease between the opera and J Bar Cane, Inc., in April, giving the company permission to drill on more than 26,000 acres in Mora and San Miguel counties. It was filed in Mora County last month.
"We had no recourse other than to sell or lease these rights in order to maximize their benefit to the Opera and to meet the organization's fiduciary obligations," MacKay said in a statement issued Friday.
MacKay said the opera received a bequest from a long-time donor in December 2002 that included a share in the mineral rights for the land. "We do not own the property itself, just a portion of the mineral rights," MacKay said in the statement.
John M. Richardson, who owns J Bar Cane, a petroleum land management firm based in Stanley, said Friday his company assembles drilling prospects for other companies. "We bought those leases for a client," said Richardson, adding that he can't reveal the client's name.
"As far as I know, they (the client) don't have any plans to do anything soon or we would have been involved to lay the groundwork for drilling locations," Richardson said.
Drilling plans in Santa Fe, Rio Arriba and Mora counties have provoked intense opposition in recent years over environmental concerns. The news that the opera had leased rights for drilling — first posted on the Internet on Thursday by the anti-drilling groups Drilling Santa Fe and Drilling Mora County — provoked quick reaction.
Johnny Micou with Drilling Santa Fe said Friday he'd received dozens of e-mails from people who are "appalled."
"Here we were with this huge public outcry (against drilling in the Galisteo Basin south of Santa Fe over the past two years) and then the Santa Fe Opera turns around and goes to a poor county and leases nearly 27,000 acres for mineral exploration and development," Micou said.
Micou said many who've e-mailed Drilling Santa Fe and who support or attend the opera "are saying they're going to boycott the opera."
He said there were no clauses in the lease agreement signed between the opera and J Bar Cane providing any environmental protections or restrictions on drilling methods.
Kathleen Dudley with Drilling Mora County, asked: "Why would an arts company, a revered company, knowingly sign leases that would degrade an agricultural county?"
Dudley said if MacKay had agreed to similar terms in Santa Fe County, "he would have been tarred and feathered."
A Texas company recently abandoned plans to drill south of Santa Fe amid a prolonged public outcry and a revised county ordinance that reiterated tough restrictions on where drilling can take place.
'Environmental commitment'
MacKay said in his statement that the opera "has a long tradition of environmental commitment," citing its $750,000 investment in a wastewater treatment plant that it operates jointly with Santa Fe County. The opera also has adopted "a wide-ranging program to re-use or recycle materials, including scenery and costumes, to the highest extent possible," the statement said.
MacKay said the donor of the mineral rights stipulated that the bequest be used to support the opera's apprentice programs. "The Opera strives to operate in a fiscally responsible manner, in keeping with its legal mandates as a not-for-profit organization, and to honor the wishes of its donors," MacKay said. As a result, he said, the Opera had to sell or lease the mineral rights.
Richardson said the land is located north of Las Vegas, N.M. Dudley said it's between N.M. 518 at Sapello and Interstate 25 at Watrous, in the vicinity of the communities of Los Alamos and Emplazado and Lake Isabelle, on the San Miguel and Mora County line. Dudley said there are four owners of the property.
The lease signed by MacKay says the opera is lessor for about 27,000 acres in San Miguel and Mora counties, although his statement released Friday says the donation to the opera was for mineral rights in Mora County. His statement didn't address the question of other owners raised by Dudley.

Charles MacKay, director, Santa Fe Opera, signs mineral leases in Mora County

email: Charles MacKay, director, Santa Fe

Email to Charles MacKay:
As a musician, fine artist, and co-chair of Drilling Mora County, concerned citizen group, I was surprised to read Santa Fe Opera/Charles MacKay's name on the list of recorded leases when I checked at the Mora County clerk's office two weeks ago.

My own inspiration for my art comes from Nature. And I have seen that to be true of most artistic endeavours throughout history. To read the name of the Santa Fe Opera amongst those who took money in lieu of valuing the impact of their actions on their neighbours tells me that money is more important than what feeds the soul of the Santa Fe Opera's director. How can this leadership inspire such artistic endeavours?

We all have been impacted by the economic downturn, but those who sell out the "others" in order to succeed in this lifetime must not understand that someone will be harmed in this action. I can only hope that Mr. MacKay can rectify his actions and find another solution to funding the arts. When we destroy our inspiration, we destroy our souls in the process as well.

Kathleen Dudley
co-chair, Drilling Mora County

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Santa Fe Opera Signs Oil/Gas Lease in Mora/San Miguel Counties

Santa Fe Opera Company, general director, Charles MacKay, signed an oil and gas lease April 20th with J Bar Cane, landman ( managed by John Michael Richardson), of Stanley, New Mexico. The 26,746 acre parcel is co-owned by four parties, of which Santa Fe Opera Company is one party. All four parties leased their mineral rights which were recorded in both San Miguel and Mora County Clerk's offices August 18th 2009.

The location of these leases is between state road 518 at Sapello and interstate I-25 at Watrous. It is in the vicinity of Los Alamos and Emplazado, near Lake Isabelle on the San Miguel and Mora County line.

In September 2008, KHL Inc. leased state trust land in the Ocate/Wagon Mound area (Mora County). Oil and gas leases on state trust land are requested by interested leasing parties by contacting Patrick Lyons, New Mexico State Land Commissioner, who then offers the land for auction. 13,000 acres of pristine state land was subsequently auctioned for oil/gas exploration in Mora County.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

"Fracking and the Environment: Natural Gas Drilling, Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Contamination"--Democracy Now!

Gas drilling companies such as Halliburton say the gas drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is safe, but opponents contend it pollutes groundwater with dangerous substances. Now, new evidence has emerged possibly linking natural gas drilling to groundwater contamination. ProPublica journalist Abrahm Lustgarten reports federal officials in Wyoming have found that at least three water wells contain chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing.

"Recent incidents raise issues on drilling, environment"--Shreveport TImes

By Alisa Stingley
Blanche Jefferson lives in Shreveport, but her worries are all south of here.

Her granddaughter and five great-grandchildren live south of Spring Ridge and close to where 17 cows died after ingesting liquid that spilled from a nearby natural gas drilling rig site into a pasture.

"I'm mostly concerned ... stuff might get in the water," said Jefferson, 79, adding that the family depends on well water.

The environmental impact of drilling has her so concerned that she's rethinking whether she wants to lease mineral rights from property she owns in that area to an energy company in the future.

"Money is nothing if something happened to them," she says of the children.

The Haynesville Shale has brought prosperity to many northwest Louisiana property owners and governments. And nationwide there is an urgency to depend more on natural gas, a clean-burning fuel. However, Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality is reviewing several area incidents:

n April: Seventeen cows died in a south Caddo Parish pasture after ingesting a liquid found pooled in the pasture, a spill from a nearby Chesapeake Energy drilling site. No reports on what killed the cows have been made public.

n May: Fifteen Naborton families evacuated when a Chesapeake well east of Mansfield began blowing natural gas into the air. The air quality was monitored, and a Chesapeake spokesman said there was no threat to public safety or the environment. According to DEQ files on the case, 50 million standard cubic feet of methane gas —the main component of natural gas —was discharged after a casing valve failed.

DEQ doesn't require notification of the release of 1 million standard cubic feet but does require notification of more than 2.5 million in a planned release. The Naborton release, however, was unplanned. Otis Randle, manager of the DEQ regional office here, said 50 million is "a lot of gas." But he said people would not suffer health problems unless they breathed in a concentrated amount.

The main risk to nearby residents is the potential for explosion, and methane causes an adverse impact on the planet's ozone layer, since methane is a greenhouse gas. The DEQ report on the Naborton well said the release did not have an off-site environmental impact. ......... more......

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

"EPA Confirms Drinking Water Contamination by Toxics Used in Hydraulic Fracturing"

Joint Press Release: EARTHWORKS * Powder River Basin Resource Council
EPA will investigate nearby oil and gas development to determine contamination source
Pavillion, WY citizens call for fracking moratorium

Pavillion, WY, August 14, 2009 - This week U.S. Environmental Protection Agency told a group of over 70 that initial investigations found 11 of 39 tested drinking water wells were contaminated. Among the contaminants are toxics used in oil and gas production.

As part of a Superfund investigation, EPA began sampling in March 2009 in the Pavillion, WY area in response to multiple landowners concerns about changes in water quality and quantity following EnCana's increased gas development in the area. Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (WDEQ) and EnCana had continually assured Pavillion residents that there was no evidence of hydrocarbons or toxic chemicals in their drinking water wells.

"Our families and neighbors are experiencing everything from miscarriages and rare cancers to central nervous system disorders, seizures, and liver disease" said John Fenton of Pavillion Area Concerned Citizens, a citizens group formed to address oil and gas contamination.

EPA confirmed the presence of 2-butoxyethanol (2-BE), a known constituent in hydraulic fracturing fluids, in three wells. This is the same chemical that was documented in the water well of Laura Amos, a Colorado landowner, after nearby wells were hydraulically fractured by EnCana. EPA reported that other water contamination, in the Pavillion wells, included methane, as well as adamantanes (a form of hydrocarbon) and six other chemical compounds of concern.

In 2001 EnCana's fracturing operations in Silt, Colorado were linked to methane and other contamination of Ms. Amos' nearby water well. Amos was unable to test immediately for chemical constituents related to hydraulic fracturing as she was unable to identify what chemicals were in EnCana's drilling products. In 2003 Ms. Amos was diagnosed with a rare adrenal cancer and she later discovered that 2-BE had been used in EnCana's fracking products. According to Dr. Theo Colborn at The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, known health effects of 2-BE include elevated numbers of combined malignant and non-malignant tumors of the adrenal gland, kidney damage, kidney failure, toxicity to the spleen, the bones in the spinal column and bone marrow, liver cancer, anemia, female fertility reduction, and embryo mortality.

As a result of the EPA's findings, residents in the Pavillion area are now calling for a halt to EnCana's fracturing operation. "It's very concerning that we are finding known fracturing products and hydrocarbons in our citizens' water wells," says John Fenton. "We'll await EPA's determination as to what is the cause of this contamination. However, in the mean time, we are asking EnCana to ensure no more fracturing occurs in the area."