People’s Rally and Press Conference on the Sandoval County Oil and Gas Ordinance
Community and environmental groups will gather before the Oct. 19 Sandoval County Commission meeting to protest the county’s exclusion of Sandoval residents from the process of creating an oil and gas ordinance that shuts out public input. The Stoddard oil and gas ordinance lacks water and public health protections, meaningful tribal consultation, and does not require public notification or input before drilling approval.
Tribal consultation has yet to be considered and still lacks tribal concerns. At the Oct. 5th meeting, Chair Don Chapman read out misstatements regarding a meeting with the Pueblo of San Felipe insisting that the Pueblo agreed with the ordinance as written. In response, San Felipe Pueblo Governor Anthony Ortiz and Lieutenant Governor Carl Valencia wrote:
“It was a surprise to us when Commissioner Chapman announced publicly that the Pueblo of San Felipe was in agreement with the ordinance as written. We do not appreciate the public misrepresentation of our conversation.”
The Stoddard ordinance does not require public notice or public comment and gives oil and gas companies a 10-day turnaround for processing permits. It gives sole authority to the Planning and Zoning director to approve drilling near residents’ homes and sensitive areas.
The citizen group Common Ground Rising has called on the commission to consult with professionals such as hydrogeologists specializing in underground water resources to ensure protections for groundwater resources in a drought-stricken state. Federal and state regulations do not require oil and gas companies to drill or test monitor wells to prevent groundwater contamination near drilling sites. This is entirely within the county’s jurisdiction.
The county also violated the Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA). When citizens asked the county to produce its Emergency Safety Response Plan after the July 2016 explosion of 36 storage tanks in Nageezi, the county claimed it was a matter of national security and refused. The Attorney’s General Office has determined that the county violated the IPRA law.
“It is the duty of this public body to ensure that “all persons are entitled to the greatest possible information regarding the affairs of government and the official acts of public officers and employees,” said Andrea La Cruz-Crawford, consulting attorney for Common Ground Rising.
“The Board of County Commissioners has failed to release or respond to records requests for documents relating to this ordinance which was made over a year ago, where the rule requires disclosure within no more than 15 days.”
There are also concerns that the county is violating the Open Meetings Act (OMA) after Chair Don Chapman shutout 75 people from the Sept. 21 meeting.
“There have been complaints that the Board of County Commissioners has been locking
members of the general public out of these meetings while permitting members of the oil and gas industry to enter the building in clear violation of the Open Meetings Act,” said Elaine Cimino, co-director of Common Ground Rising.
The Commission is expected to discuss the ordinance at the Oct. 19 meeting before the second publish-and-post vote. The rally starts at 4:15 pm in front of the Sandoval County Commission Building, 1500 Idalia Road, Bernalillo, 87004. A press conference will follow after the opening prayer.