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.