Skip to comments.Coalition Fights Drill Plan (NM, here we go again!)
Posted on 02/03/2004 10:28:05 AM PST by CedarDave
Monday, February 2, 2004
Coalition Fights Drill Plan
By Adam Rankin Journal Staff Writer
A U.S. Forest Service decision on whether to allow coal-bed methane drilling on 40,000 acres of the Valle Vidal isn't expected until January 2005 at the earliest, but a coalition of conservation groups is stirring up political opposition.
"Everyone is kind of rolling up their sleeves, putting aside their differences and saying this is something we just can't allow," said Stuart Wilde, operator of a backcountry guide service, and a member of the newly-formed Coalition for the Valle Vidal (www.vallevidal.org).
The coalition of about 10 groups argues the valle, donated to the Forest Service in 1982 by Pennzoil and managed since for its scenic and wildlife values, should be off limits to drilling because of its unique beauty and natural resources.
"I don't doubt that there probably is a good supply of coal-bed methane," said Oscar Simpson, president of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, a coalition member. "But this is a jewel, the Yellowstone of New Mexico, and sometimes you should just say there should be no drilling because of its intrinsic value."
Houston-based El Paso Corp.'s proposal to drill for natural gas in the valle spurred New Mexico's Historical Preservation Alliance to name the region one of the state's most endangered places for 2004.
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Coal-bed methane is the latest boom in domestic energy development and viewed as a way to stem the nation's growing energy dependence and feed an increasing national appetite for natural gas.
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El Paso spokesman Mel Scott argues the valle is no pristine wilderness. "There are roads built all through it," he said. Prior to becoming Forest Service land, it was managed for timber, coal and other natural resources. "It is not something that has never been touched before by mankind, by any means." He said because the company is successfully producing coal-bed methane on Ted Turner's Vermejo Park Ranch just to the north and east of the valle, it made sense to look to develop gas in the valle. "We have had very good success (on the Vermejo Park Ranch)," he said. "We are hoping this will all take place rather quickly and move on, but it is not a very fast process," because of the reviews and the environmental impact statement that need to be done, he said.
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The Forest Service must first complete reviews and evaluations before deciding whether to lease the land. Managers say they remain undecided. Seesholtz said the Forest Service won't have enough information to make a decision until January 2005. By that time, a review by the state's Bureau of Geology and Minerals Resources on what gas development might look like in the valle over the next 20 years, is expected to be complete.
Copyright 2004 Albuquerque Journal
(Excerpt) Read more at abqjournal.com ...