Saturday, February 27, 2010
by Cindy Bellinger
With a shift in the economy and food security earnestly being talked about, communities are pulling together—especially in rural areas where old fields and pastures are being tilled again, where weathered corrals are being shored up, and sagging barns renovated. People used to know how to live off the land, and now a nationwide movement is taking place to bring back the old skills. And with so much of our land in rural status—43 million acres out of 77 million—New Mexico is definitely part of the growing trend.
One county actively combining the old ways with new technologies is Mora, a topographical blend of open plains, mountainous regions and swampy lowlands that spreads 1,900 square miles. Located in the northeastern part of the state, the county seat is Mora, a town of 2,100 residents; 15 other communities make up the rest of the county.
The person spearheading the movement is Anita LaRan, founder of Mujeres Unidas (Women United). The organization started as a way to empower local women but it’s growing. “The right people with the same vision keep showing up,” LaRan says, who is a member of Mora-San Miguel Electric Cooperative. Mujeres Unidas, an outgrowth of Helping Hands (a multi-purpose service organization), is a local grassroots initiative. What’s more, it could become a blueprint for other rural communities embarking on the growing trend of empowering women, youth and families....continued.....
By Bryan Nelson
Tue, Nov 10 2009 at 4:30 AM EST
BAD CAVERNS: Unlike the Carlsbad Caverns, collapsed brine wells like this one in nearby Artesia, N.M., aren't natural. (Photo: National Cave And Karst Research Institute/AP)
"U.S. 285 south subject to sinkhole 1,000 feet ahead," reads a bright yellow sign along the stretch of highway heading through Carlsbad, N.M.
Normally a motorist driving through the area might not find a sign like that unusual. The city is, after all, home to Carlsbad Caverns National Park, a network of some of the largest natural caverns in North America. But on this occasion, the sign's sharp colors make the message clear: what's happening in Carlsbad is not natural.
In fact, the massive sinkhole currently running through the center of town was created by the oil industry. As MSNBC reports, it was formed over three decades as oil field service companies pumped fresh water into a salt layer more than 400 feet below the surface and extracted several million barrels of brine to help with drilling.
If it collapses, the unnatural cavern is likely to take with it a church, a highway, several businesses and a trailer park. Massive fissures currently cleave through town, and one business owner has said that structural cracks have even formed in his store.
"It would be like a bomb going off in the middle of town," said Jim Griswold, a hydrologist with the New Mexico Oil Conservation Division. The problem is so severe that the Eddy County Commission declared a state of emergency last Thursday, and they hope that state and federal funds will arrive in time to fill the cavern before it collapses...continued..
Monday, February 22, 2010
February 22, 2010
"On January 13, 2010, PNM, El Paso Electric Co., the NM Oil and Gas Assoc., five additional statewide trade groups and three state legislators filed a lawsuit in state district court in Lovington against the NM Environmental Improvement Board (EIB). The suit attempts to prevent the Board, an executive agency, from evaluating the greenhouse gas petition that we submitted on behalf of New Energy Economy in 2008.
"PNM and its allies would rather throw money at lawyers and publicists than work in good faith towards reducing
For the past year, PNM and its co-plaintiffs have been working furiously to defeat our petition. Here's why: our client wants
Two of the largest companies involved in natural gas drilling have acknowledged pumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of diesel-based fluids into the ground in the process of hydraulic fracturing, raising further concerns that existing state and federal regulations don't adequately protect drinking water from drilling.
Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., who released the information in a statement Thursday, announced that the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which he chairs, is launching an investigation into potential environmental impacts from hydraulic fracturing.
The process, which forces highly pressurized water, sand and chemicals into rock to release the gas and oil locked inside, gives drillers unprecedented access to deeply buried gas deposits and vastly increases the country's known energy reserves. But as ProPublica has detailed in more than 60 articles, the process comes with risks. The fluids used in hydraulic fracturing are laced with chemicals -- some of which are known carcinogens. And because the process is exempt from most federal oversight, it is overseen by state agencies that are spread thin and have widely varying regulations.
In 2004, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency examined hydraulic fracturing and determined it can be safe as long as diesel fuel isn't added to the drilling fluids. The agency based its decision in part on a non-binding agreement it struck with the three largest drilling service companies -- Halliburton, Schlumberger and B.J. Services -- to stop using diesel. But the agreement applied only to gas drilling in a specific type of geologic formation: shallow coal deposits. The EPA study has since been widely criticized.
The information obtained by Waxman's group shows that B.J. Services violated that agreement and that Halliburton continued to use diesel in other geologic formations not governed by the agreement. All three companies acknowledged using other potentially harmful chemicals, such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene...continued....
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
DMC Educational Meeting with Chris Velasquez and Gilbert Armenta, San Juan County ranchers--saying no to oil and natural gas develpemnt
At the February 11th 2010 meeting of Drilling Mora County, Rancher Gilbert Armenta told how Conoco-Phillips drilling crews bulldozed his family cemetery removing or destroying the grave markers. This shows the incredible disrespect and total lack of ethics that the natural gas industry has for New Mexican citizens. Other than a few good officials from San Miguel County no other government representatives – not even one representative of State or Federal Government - cared enough to attend. I guess Mora County and its people are too poor and unimportant for politicians to give a damn about what happens to them and their land.
My wife and I will not support or work for any New Mexico or Federal politician that hasn’t the guts to speak out and work to bring this insane gas drilling under regulation … or if it cannot be done safely, then halt it completely. We need an immediate moratorium on new drilling for all of New Mexico. We need a comprehensive research effort by a government lab to see if gas drilling can be done safely. If it can be done safely then we need to clearly define for the gas industry how they will be allowed to do it, and provide regulation and inspection to see that this is the way it gets done. Currently, natural gas drilling is reckless and completely out of control. Corporate greed replaces and overrules common sense. If natural gas cannot be extracted safely then we need to stop extracting it.
San Juan County where natural gas drilling has occurred for some years now has the highest cancer rates in New Mexico. In other parts of America where gas drilling has occurred for some time, abnormally high cancer and livestock health issues are also being seen. These cancer rates are a direct consequence of the underground rock fracturing process (fracking) that uses known carcinogens like Benzene. Once the water aquifers get polluted there will be no going back. The gas industry does not have to disclose the mix of chemicals that they use to do fracking because this is considered proprietary information, a consequence of the Cheney-Bush Administration’s exclusion of the oil and natural gas industries from the Clean Water Act requirements and liabilities.
Who is going to pay the costs of cancers when Royal Dutch Shell and others have extracted the gas and pulled out of Mora and other New Mexico counties? What will happen to New Mexico property values when it becomes widely known that our aquifers are polluted and causing a greatly raised cancer rate? What new industry will want to move to New Mexico and provide jobs? What sense does it make to be asking New Mexico tax payers to clean up a few old gasoline tanks in Santa Fe when all over the state the natural gas industry is pumping far greater quantities of carcinogenic chemicals into wells … chemicals that are undoubtedly far deadlier than the gasoline of many decades ago?
An industry so bankrupt of values that it will bulldoze a family cemetery cannot realistically be expected to respect health or any other concerns of American citizens. It is long past time to halt all new drilling and see if it is possible to extract gas safely. We are disgusted that politicians are taking so little interest in this issue. We will not vote for or support any politician who fails show any concern for the citizens of New Mexico or for the lands and waters of New Mexico, which sustain our lives and livelihoods here in New Mexico. We need an immediate halt to this insane practice. New Mexicans must stand together, united, and demand that these greedy corporate bullies respect law and the best interests of our State, its people, our lands and the water.
PO Box 2240
Taos, NM 87571
Monday, February 8, 2010
February 5th 2010
Regional Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Dr. Al Armendariz made quite a splash last night at the February meeting of the North Central Texas Communities Alliance. Featured speaker Armendariz drew between 250 and 300 people to the Hotel Trinity Inn, where he spoke about the EPA's role in overseeing the issues of air and water quality as they relate to hydraulic fracturing for natural gas.
Armendariz announced that the EPA has funding to begin a study of both air and water quality in gas drilling regions throughout the United States.
"He said the EPA is going to be studying all aspects of the water issue and natural gas," said Sharon Wilson, a longtime responsible-drilling advocate. "They'll be looking at fraccing's effect on water tables, aquifers, wells. They'll be looking into cases that involve possible contamination and they'll be looking at the issue of wastewater disposal in injection wells. They're even going to be looking at possible contamination of ground water via sludge pits on drilling sites."
Armendariz also discussed the EPA possibly making changes to some of the guidelines currently in place that relate to acceptable levels of dangerous chemicals in the ambient air around gas wells and compressor stations.
Until recently, the issues of both water contamination and ambient air quality has been in the hands of state agencies functioning under guidelines set by the federal EPA. In Texas, the agency in charge has been the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, (TCEQ).
"I think you could say that Dr. Armendariz is not happy with the job the TCEQ has done," said Gary Hogan, a member of both the 2006 and 2008 Fort Worth drilling ordinance committees. "So he's cranking up the pressure on TCEQ to get it done and get it right."
According to Don Young, long time FW community activist, the quote of the night from Armendariz was "If TCEQ doesn't do their job, the EPA is going to help them along."
"It was a not-so-thinly veiled way of telling TCEQ to get off their asses and get to work," said Young.
By Stan Cox
Natural gas is "clean" only in contrast to coal -- just as a bacon cheeseburger can only be regarded as healthful compared with a double bacon cheeseburger.
Holding out the prospect of vast new domestic reserves, the natural gas industry is promising to make the United States an energy-rich nation once again. But we should be careful what we wish for. Spending those riches could endanger water supplies for millions of Americans while still failing to solve the climate crisis.
Electric utilities have expanded their consumption because gas-fired plants can be "turned up" to meet high peak power demand more quickly than can coal-fired plants. Natural gas is also more climate-friendly than coal and less menacing than nuclear energy.
With the discovery of drilling techniques that can extract natural gas from deep shale formations, the authoritative Potential Gas Committee estimates that the total of confirmed and potentially accessible gas reserves has grown 35 percent in just three years.
Climate bills in the House and Senate contain strong incentives to increase drilling and burning of natural gas. Seized by anti-coal fervor, most major environmental groups have gone along with the gas rush.
But natural gas is "clean" only in contrast to coal - just as a bacon cheeseburger can be regarded as healthful compared with a double bacon cheeseburger. Per kilowatt of electricity generated, gas releases 55 percent as much carbon as coal. And gas drilling poses a growing threat to our water supplies...continued.......
A technology used by the oil and gas industry to obtain natural gas is raising major concerns across the United States and is equally suspect for areas being drilled in Western Canada. Called hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking” in the trade), it allows drilling companies to access “unconventional” natural gas deposits trapped in shale, coal-bed, and tight-sand formations – potentially at the expense of underground water supplies.
On August 27, 2009, Reuters reported that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had found toxic chemical contaminants in drinking water wells near gas-drilling operations in Pavillion, Wyoming, where EnCana has 248 natural gas wells. Calgary-based EnCana is Canada’s second biggest energy company (after Suncor) and is now a major player in B.C., with hundreds of new natural gas wells in the province.
Eleven of 39 water-wells tested in Wyoming by the EPA earlier this year showed chemicals that can cause cancer, kidney failure, anaemia, and fertility problems. Among the contaminants in three of the wells was 2-butoxyehanol (2-BE), a highly toxic solvent often used in fracking.
The ongoing EPA investigation is significant because it is the first time the U.S. federal agency has investigated and documented such well-water contamination close to natural gas drilling sites, although, according to research by the U.S. journal ProPublica, in the last few years there have been more than a thousand similar cases documented by courts and local governments across the U.S.
Currently, companion legislation (S.1215/H.R. 2766) is before both houses of Congress to require regulation of hydraulic fracturing under the federal U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act. On Sept. 10, 160 national, regional, state, and local organizations jointly issued a letter to Congressional representatives, urging them to co-sponsor the “Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act,” introduced on June 9. Their letter stated: “Our organizations represent communities across the country that are concerned about drinking water contamination linked to hydraulic fracturing operations.”
Canada has no national water standards and collects little information about groundwater.
Invented in the 1950s by Halliburton Co., hydraulic fracking was initially used for drilling only about one in a hundred natural gas wells, but now it’s being applied to most production in North America. Before the end of 2009, the industry plans to complete at least 4,000 hydraulic fracturing jobs in northern B.C. alone – mostly in the Motney shale region of northeastern B.C. and the Horn River Basin near Fort Nelson.
According to the Oil & Gas Inquirer (June 2009), fracking is also “in high demand” in the Bakken natural gas field in southern Saskatchewan.....continued..........
Saturday, February 6, 2010
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Posted: Saturday, January 30, 2010 - 1/31/10
As a guide, outfitter, sportsman, recreationalist, land grant heir, and norteño, I depend on the nearby wild and undeveloped public lands for the welfare of my business and my family's well-being here in Northern New Mexico. Having public land available to hunt, fish and hike on is the foundation of my livelihood. That's one reason I feel strongly about the need to protect Whites Peak from the land swap that is taking place just north of Ocaté in Mora County.
State Land Commissioner Patrick Lyons has been working with ranchers in the area on a Whites Peak land exchange. Whites Peak is a mixed bag of private and state trust lands just north of Ocaté. Sportsmen are once again angered by the actions that our state land commissioner is proposing. The trade involves transferring thousands of acres of mountainous public trust land to a few large private ranches in exchange for thousands of acres of lower-elevation parcels, mostly grasslands.
Through my outfitting business, I was able to move my family back home to rural Northern New Mexico, where my business has flourished. Because of the clean industry of outfitting, I am able to make a good living, and there is no better place than Northern New Mexico for keeping my family and raising my children. That is why we as a community and as sportsmen must protect the resources we have available to us.
More than nine in 10 people in this state hunt on public lands, and New Mexico's hunters spend more than $150 million annually pursuing this sport. Our anglers contribute another $176 million to the state's bank account, and together with hunters support some 8,000 jobs. They help keep small businesses like mine thriving as well as bringing in the dollars that help the local restaurants, motels and grocery stores. These revenues are crucial to the well being of the small business owners in rural communities throughout New Mexico.
For more information about the Whites Peak land swap, visit www.nmstatelands.org/uploads/News/2009/2009_1120WhitesPeakFacts.pdf
John Olivas owns and operates JACO Outfitters, LLC (www.jacooutfitters.com) in Holman, N.M., and is the northern director of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
fracking: Sundance Award for GASLAND, NYC Mayor wants BAN
SUNDANCE AWARD - JOSH FOX & GASLAND
A Special Jury Prize for Documentary was presented to GASLAND, directed by Josh Fox. With spirit, strength,
and a sense of humor, Fox's personal documentary takes a look at how gas drilling affects our air, our drinking water, our communities, and our nation. Robert Koehler of Variety wrote an awesome review saying that "GASLAND will become to the dangers of gas drilling what "Silent Spring" was to DDT."
And Mickey Rapkin of GQ called Josh Fox "Sundance's new Erin Brockovich":
It may be brackish and thousands of feet underground, but in Colorado, every drop of water counts.
That's why gas companies are filing applications for rights to water that comes out of their wells during the process of producing natural gas.
“The oil and gas industry is only seeking the water rights associated with oil and gas production," said Bruce Gantner, a ConocoPhillips environmental consultant who is handling comments about the company's application.
Others filing applications in the area include BP, the Southern Ute Tribe and Chevron.
But some observers of the process called it a “water grab" and question the legal framework for the gas companies' claims.
“I think that the applications are overreaching, and they're very broad, and they're probably speculative, as well," said Amy Huff, a water attorney who recently presented at a public meeting about the subject.
As always, nothing related to water is simple.....continue......
Monday, February 01, 2010
(SANTA FE)---In petitioning the New Mexico Supreme Court today, Attorney General Gary King says the White Peak land exchanges violate state law and the bidding process used is unconstitutional.
"The public auction requirement for State Trust Land exchanges with private parties appears to be predetermined in the first two of the four proposed deals." says Attorney General King. "We are asking the Court for a writ of mandamus and an emergency stay that prohibits further exchanges of state trust lands by the land commissioner that violate the New Mexico Constitution."
Attorney General King's petition to the Court states in part:
On January 7, 2010, New Mexico’s Commissioner of Public Lands, Patrick H. Lyons (hereinafter, the “Commissioner”), consummated a land exchange with the Stanley Ranch, the first of four major land exchanges that comprise what the Commissioner refers to as the Whites Peak Exchange. On December 17, 2009, the Commissioner notified the Express UU Bar Ranch that it was the winning bidder for the second of these four land exchanges....New Mexico law requires that the Commissioner conduct a public auction before undertaking exchanges of State Trust Lands with private parties. This requirement derives directly from the Enabling Act of 1910, which provided terms for the admission of New Mexico to the Union and is fully incorporated into the Constitution as part of the “fundamental law” of New Mexico.... The Enabling Act deliberately established rigid procedural safeguards—including the public auction requirement—to prevent the exploitation of State Trust Lands by private parties. By the design of Congress, a public auction ensures that the trust obtains the maximum market price for its assets and all but eliminates the possibility of improper dealing between the Commissioner and private parties...In this case, however, despite purporting to comply with the public auction requirement, the Commissioner undertook the first two of these exchanges using public auctions that were, for all practical purposes, shams. The undisputed facts make clear that, notwithstanding the public auction requirement, the Land Commissioner made a predetermination to exchange specific and substantial portions of State Trust Lands with two specific private parties. The Commissioner then narrowly tailored the “public auction” process to effectively guarantee this result. In so doing, he rendered the constitutional requirement for a public auction into a meaningless formality... This Petition thus addresses a relatively narrow question never before addressed by a New Mexico court: Does the Commissioner violate the duty imposed on him by the Enabling Act, the New Mexico Constitution, and his fiduciary obligations to the trust by conducting substantially constrained “public auctions” in order to achieve a predetermined result?
Attorney General King says the unusual step of bypassing the lower courts and petitioning the Supreme Court was taken because of the constitutional issues in question, the immediate effects on the public interest, and the fact that more White Peak land exchanges are proposed.