What You Need to Know About Sandoval County’s Oil and Gas Ordinance  

#Common Ground Rising

Stop Fracking the Rio Grande Valley: an outreach project on Facebook

For the past 18 months, Sandoval County Commission has been undergoing a process of formulating its oil and gas ordinance. The ordinance was initially pursued in November 2015 when SandRidge Energy Inc., an Oklahoma-based oil, and gas company, applied for a special-use permit. Since then citizens’ groups have organized to give a formal comment, input, and reports for inclusion in the ordinance to ensure protections from extractive industry impacts–including all surface impacts. This O&G draft process has only been since the end of June 2017 for the past 5 months.  Staff Report on Sandridge application from the Planning and Zoning Department with Special Use Permitting.  This link has the NeEw Mexico Tech Agreements as well. 

Posted on September 15, 2017Placitas Community Member Mike Neas Wrote:

We were given only one chance and only at the very end of the P and Z Commission entire proceedings to produce and present our comprehensive recommendations to the most recent Attorney Gil Suazo (Thrust Energy Attorney) (Stoddard PZ Commissioner CCC Chapman Appointment) document which had only been posted on the Sandoval Co website 4 or 5 days prior to our presentation. Our document needed to and did follow their most recent version. We demonstrated to everyone in that room that we were more than willing and capable of producing a quality fair recommendation to their document. Our participation has been and will continue to be what participatory democracy is meant to be. A job well was done. But, our bureaucrats and elected officials have continually rigged, manipulated and violated the process. IMHO, the CC on at least 2 occasions violated the Open Meetings Act by discussing (twice) and voting (once) on versions of the Stoddard Ordinance that had not even been in existence when the Agenda was posted 72 hours prior to the meetings. Numerous IPRA requests have been made and have gone unanswered and or been responded to with untrue information or inadequate information.

On Tuesday, September 12th after 6 meetings in which Public hearings were not recorded, nor were the minutes published until November during this entire process. The P and Z Commission Arango was the deciding vote that sent an ambiguous and undrafted document to the CC, which would contain a memorandum of concerns about the state of the Ordinance and the Requests of SOP’s (Standard Operating procedures along with a recommendation.

No one in the room including the Commissioners knew exactly what the memorandum would contain.

ON September 21 the discussion of the

was totally inadequate because Commissioner Chapman disregarded what the Commission and usurped the P and Z Commission and Read a 3-page letter memo from Mike Springfield into the record. In our IPRA request, we received a one-page shorten version.

The Oil and Gas ordinance versions have not been numbered and the Commissioners were playing fast and loose with the drafts and amendments that were expressed and what was inserted after motions and agreements on the draft. They should have been combined the Citizens Group Ordinance with the Dan Stoddard/NMOGA Draft document and then presented and voted on at the following P and Z meeting. They voted on a document that did not exist at the September 7th of the County Commissions with Commissioner insertions. Then on September 12 P&Z meeting had a Draft document that contained NO suggestion insertion from the P&Z commission nor the Citizens group.

The P& Z Commissioner chair John Arango, resigned after Commissioner Don Chapman dismissed the concerns of the P&Z. Mike Springfield is working to streamline and has disregarded nearly every suggestion from the Public and appears to have corrupted our county democratic process.


Ordinance Divides Sandoval County into Two Regions

  • The current draft divides the county into a Northwest and Southeast region, each with different use protections (4.7 in the draft ordinance).[1]
  • The ordinance establishes energy development zones that do not provide adequate community protections.
  • The County has based the decision to Divide the County on Population bases, however, the way they are managing the two areas energy sectors have more disparate impacts on the Cultural Landscape of Chaco Canyon and its peoples in the NW area of Sandoval County. They are allowing two very different policing of the zoning ordinance.

Northwest Sandoval County 

Sandoval County has 600 hundred-fracked wells mostly concentrated in the northwest region, also known as the Checkerboard area and part of Greater Chaco. The Checkerboard area covers multiple jurisdictions of land ownership that includes public, private, state, Indian allotments, and Tribal trust lands.

  • Sandoval County ignores oil and gas impacts affecting residents living in the Checkerboard region–some areas are under the County’s jurisdiction.


Photo Credit: Kendra Pinto
Nageezi (18mi. north of Sandoval County)

July 11, 2016 - Nageezi, NM

36 storage tanks exploded at a newly developed fracking site operated by WPX Energy. Investigations revealed that WPX used aluminum fittings instead of steel on many of its connectors. One or more shortly gave way leaking gas, which ignited. The fire burned for 5-days. WPX claimed the plume of emissions dissipated quickly. Former WPX vice president Ken McQueen now serves as cabinet secretary of NM Energy, Minerals and Natural Resource Department (NMEMNRD).


2.)   Southeast Sandoval County

The southeast region of the county is more heavily populated than the northwest.

  • Communities in the northwest are disproportionately impacted by oil and gas extraction. The County largely ignores what these communities experience.
  • The County practices environmental racism and has little regard for social justice.

In a Q&A session at the May 12th meeting, public comments were given and ignored. No attempt was made to modify the draft ordinance before submission to the Planning and Zoning Commission. Division of the County is not needed or wanted. This industry divides communities, families and poses significant health and safety risks.

The County has NO Emergency Response Plan

  • In September 2016, an IPRA (Inspection of Public Records Act) was submitted requesting for the oil and gas company’s Emergency Response Plan that was supposed to be filed with the County.
  • The County refused citing national security reasons. The County is supposed to have a emergency response plan in place. The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) found that Sandoval County was in Violation of IPRA. We are filing a lawsuit for that document.
  • Planning and Zoning Director, Michael Springfield, admitted the County needs time to draft an emergency response plan. [2]

As of June 29th 2017
On May 12, 2017 the County released the final Draft Copy of its 32-page “Dead Ordinance”. This picture shows noticeable size and content differences on oil and gas ordinances from San Miguel (200 pages) and Santa Fe (175 pages) counties on the left, and Sandoval County (32 pages) on the right. then On June 15th They released the June Draft of the Sandoval County Ordinance which was 27 pages. Streamlining further after countless objections to this document from the citizens in Sandoval County. On June 29th agenda changes were posted within the 72-hour time limit prior to a county legislative meeting. See Video and Lifestream for the most Up to Date documentation on the comments from the Planning and Zonning Department and the Public Comments.

County Pulls a Bait and Switch on Citizens Input Process on Ordinance

The first draft was a work in progress with planning staff and the citizens’ input. Post election resulted in an entirely new and different draft. The document floated as a working draft until May 12th.

Requests were made by Ken McQueen (NMEMNRD), and New Mexico Oil and Gas Association (NMOGA) director Ryan Flynn to streamline the planning permitting process simultaneously with the state permitting process with intentions to complete it within 10 days. Hundreds of wells can be rubberstamped and approved this way.

At the May 12th meeting, the County Commission stated that they had 2 options:

  1. No ordinance, and simply streamline the application process.
  2. Allow this ordinance to go forward and be approved “as is” document

 This ordinance lacks adequate protections for water, air and public safety. Many issues are not addressed.


Talking points for the Sandoval County Oil and Gas Ordinance Public Hearing

Many of these issues have been ignored in order to allow for increased revenue to the County and state, impacting taxpayers and minority communities.

The County’s ordinance should include monitoring and enforcements for the following:

  • Pre-drilling air and water quality assessments, including ground and surface water, post-drilling air and water quality assessments, and aquifer protections and monitoring.
  • Post-operation inspections, assessments and proper remediation responses.
    • Monitoring, inspections and enforcement of regulations are left to the state.


  • Ordinances regulating operator activities are highly inadequate and should include:
  • Oversight of safe waste disposal. Qualifications for determining waste disposal are lacking and should include provisions regarding processes.
    • Direct injection of waste will be allowed on fracking sites.
  • Noise and operational hour requirements.
  • Operator performance verifications.


  • Ordinances should include criteria for accepting and rejecting oil and gas application permits to drill (APDs).
  • An Emergency Response Plan does not exist and needs to be filed with the County.
  • Counties have a responsibility and the tools to ensure community safety in the form of zoning rules and ordinances.The ordinance should include public health safeguards/regulations like accident response and cleanup.
  • Inclusion of oil and gas worker safety and accountability, and employee procedures.


  • Protections for landowners are considerably insufficient.
  • There are no protections for split estate surface landowners. The ordinance states it is solely the responsibility of the landowner to submit concerns at the time of application. Furthermore, value impacts have not been outlined and are left to the Planning & Zoning Commission to determine.
  • The ordinance does not include regulations for additional infrastructure (injection wells, pipelines, compressor stations, waste storage and disposal, etc.) where eminent domain is used.


  • The public comment process lacks transparency and should allow for adequate public review time.
  • There is no public review process on exploratory well applications.
  • Permit reviewing is so streamlined that permits are allowed to be processed within 10 days and without proper notifications to the public.
  • Adequate neighborhood notifications need to be setup to ensure community concerns are heard.

 [1] Final Draft Sandoval County Ordinance

[2] Michael Springfield May 12, 2017  Video link https://youtu.be/DTBVT-fuGB0 – Video Credit Mike Swick regarding Comments on Emergency Response Plan.