The Voice of the People Curtailed

Since November of 2015, we, the individuals, citizens’ groups, NGO’s, tribal nations, have been engaged in public participation process with Sandoval County on the oil and gas 6 ordinances that have been drafted.
During the Sandridge Drilling application in 2015-16, several hundred citizens (over 2500) wrote the County email that was combined into one unscannable PDF that the County Commissioners refused to read. They indicated that it was because of the sheer volume of the response, mostly opposing, the Sandridge county drilling application that was and still is under a special use permitting.
After the Nageezi explosion in July 2016, we requested a public documents request under Information of Public Records Act (IPRA) and the County refused the request for an emergency response plan. From this point forward in the quest for open government information and public participation from the County, we were framed as opposition to Oil and Gas Ordinance, and a ‘nuisance’. This has resulted in the County obstructing nearly every attempt for information records and stopping the ability to enter information into the public record during a public hearing and denying our ability to comment, cross-examine in a public hearing.
During the 2017 draft ordinance it became clear of the streamlining and preempting attempts by the Planning & Zoning (PZ) director who has a clear bias towards industry and many times given false advice and responses that has influenced the County in drafting a very bad ordinance, which streamlines and deregulated offering little protection to humans and the environment.
The County has obstructed the IPRA and OMA (Open Meetings Act) Open Government laws of which we have clearly documented 3 IPRA and 10 OMA violations during the 2017 ordinance process. The County brought forward the failed ‘Stoddard’ ordinance again in 2018 as the Baseline Ordinance, after throwing a 25-member chartered Citizens Working Groups Chartered committee under the bus along with their CWG land use ordinance. Instead, Commissioners inserted some of the CWG land use provisions, only to hatchet them later from the ordinance. They were interested in the CWG Science ordinance that was to ban fracking in the immediate Rio Grande Sub-basin but still allowed conventional drilling. They also made last-minute insertions of 6 square miles to be exempted from the ban fracking zones in the Rio Rancho Estates. They did this without advertising maps or defining for the public where and what those areas are, did not advertise a closed meeting on their website prior to the ordinance consideration, and they never formally adjourned the meeting.
The only pool of oil in the basin available is under the Rio Grande. Banning fracking in one area puts at risk the populations of minority communities of Pueblo, Dine’ and Hispanic communities already experience respiratory illnesses in the Northwest part of the County.
Each year the County adopts an Open Meeting Act Resolution to follow through the course of the year. The County has never changed that but in July of this year, they disallowed public comment until the final approval of the O&G ordinance. In September 2018, the County proposed another amendment to OMA to violate the free speech and the free association of employees and elected officials. We were able to defeat their violation of free speech on this OMA amendment.
The County did not allow any of the ordinances while in the PZ procedure to go for a public comment until the final approval when they abdicated their responsibility and tossed an incomplete ordinance back the County Commission. As stated prior to the Sandridge application procedures the majority of PZ and county commissioners did not read email comments.
They have suggested once again to send the public comment through their website once again in 2018. However, this is not a public hearing and it is not required that they accept the public comments into the record. Therefore, the public comments are not apart of the official record. This is important because as stated prior ( this is an excerpt from a large report) the County defaults on the quasi-legislative ruling making procedures when citizens have the right to redress of their grievances in district court.
The County has not given findings of the why they have accepted or reject the Public comments they received of why the ignored the Citizens Working Group ordinance that attempted to address land use concerns.
The Citizens of Sandoval County have been harmed by the governance from the County Commission on free speech, on open government transparency laws that are suppose to shine light on records in which gives citizens the understanding for the issues before them that they may either weigh-in on support or opposition and to interact with the County on facts and their passions on these matters. Instead, people with opposing viewpoints or even suggestions for the Commission to consider are treated as nuisances with threats of arrest after they refuse to hear people and only to have squashed their voices from the official record. They are not allowed to address substantive issues that are entitled to under the law in comments of one or two minutes. Under Roberts Rules of Order cross-examination is allowed but the chairman will not allow it.
From January through May 2018, our group tried to form a Local Emergency Response Planning (LERC) Committee, insert language into the ordinances and bring up conflicts of interests that need to be addressed to the public of the County’s fiscal interests in the fracking and selling water to fracking operations. All attempts to participate were thwarted, ignored and only threats of arrest when trying to state the issue in 1-2-3 minute time frame with no opportunity for presentation and discussion on concerns that need to be on the record. Usually, this happened in a public hearing when Roberts Rules of Order is followed because it gives the opportunity for redress of both sides. The Commission will not allow the rules of order to be implemented.
As a result of following the meetings, we worked to document further violations of the Open Meeting Act (OMA) and Inspections of Public Records Act (IPRA). We have had to file a complaint with OAG on every meeting, which there was an infraction of the law under OMA and the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) state laws.
The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) is investigating these issues but they are over 6 months behind on the complaints. The OAG rarely enforces the law on IPRA and OMA. This is why the rogue commission like Sandoval County is allowed to violate the law so the industry can profit over people and the people voices are squashed.
Without enforcement of the law, there is no rule of law. As Sandoval County citizens and New Mexicans, we are living in a “State Capture” society, which regulations and laws are being implemented that allows corruption that distorts the intended implementation of laws that shapes the formation of the laws to disproportionally support industry profit of people and the environment.
The definition for State Capture is as follows:
“State Capture” is defined as the efforts of individuals or firms to shape the formation of laws, policies, and regulations of the state to their own advantage by providing illicit private gains to public officials. The key distinction in this typology is not, for example, the size of a bribe nor the level in the political system where bribery occurs, but rather whether the corruption is directed to distort the intended implementation of laws or to shape the formation of the laws themselves.”
The NM state agencies run by former lobbyists of the industry on the agencies are to oversee and of dark money campaign contributions that allow for the oil and gas industry full-oversight of NM EMNR and NM OCD, for $2 M donation to the Governor Martinez’s campaign, pay-to-play corrupt activities in both parties, now they are doing the same for the State Land Commissioner race in 2018. Even the ballot initiative for an NM constitutional amendment of an ethics commission, sorely needed and is sure to pass, will have little impact on this problem because it has no subpoena power, no commission while not in session, no budget, and meets in closed sessions.