Skip to comments.Ranchers Join Fight To Limit Drilling at Otero Mesa
Posted on 07/31/2003 10:42:25 AM PDT by CedarDave
Thursday, July 31, 2003
Ranchers Join Fight To Limit Drilling at Otero Mesa
By Tania Soussan Journal Staff Writer
Otero Mesa ranchers and a group that campaigns to protect private property rights are joining environmentalists in a fight to limit new oil and gas drilling in a remote but highly valued expanse of southern New Mexico.
"What's right is right," said G.B. Oliver III, executive vice president of the Paragon Foundation and president of Western Bank in Alamogordo. "Our goal is the same."
The biologically rich grassland, which could hold significant natural gas reserves, has attracted national attention.
Environmentalists say new drilling and the roads that go along with it would damage one of the last remnants of healthy Chihuahuan Desert grassland in New Mexico and reduce wildlife habitat. Oil and gas drillers have said the BLM's restrictions would pose an economic hardship.
Directors of Alamogordo-based Paragon, devoted to defending private property rights, voted this week to get involved on behalf of the area ranchers and to work with the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. The ranchers and the foundation are mainly concerned with the potential for ground-water contamination and damage to rangeland.
"There's some areas out there that should be out of the drilling because they're vulnerable," said Bob Jones, a rancher with public land leases on Otero Mesa and Paragon Foundation president.
"It's a matter of survival for all of us," he said. "If we can't get them stopped, we're through. All we get out of it is destruction."
The ranchers and Paragon are the latest voices that have joined the fight to protect Otero Mesa this year.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has already asked Interior Secretary Gale Norton to protect the area from expanded drilling until a significant wilderness area is set aside.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management is developing new rules to guide oil and gas development in the area, between Las Cruces and El Paso.
The BLM plans to limit surface disturbance in big chunks of healthy grassland. Only 5 percent of those blocks of land could be occupied by roads, well pads and other facilities at the same time.
Ranchers and the Paragon Foundation don't want to ban all drilling, Oliver said. They only want the area developed in a way that protects ground water and the land.
"I'm not going to let 'em destroy that," said Oliver, whose bank has loaned money to Otero Mesa ranchers.
The ranchers have been wary of new oil and gas development for a long time, but recent actions of one company triggered their anger.
Threshold Development Co. of Fort Worth dumped dirty water into a reserve pit at an Otero Mesa site where it plans to begin drilling soon.
The BLM issued a violation notice and ordered the company to remove the water, which it did. But the ranchers say a nasty sludge remains at the bottom of the pit.
"There's still muck," said rancher Jonna Lou Shafer. "The black stinky stuff is still in the bottom."
A test by Sandia National Laboratories found more than seven times the total dissolved solids normally in fresh water and the presence of E. coli and coliform bacteria.
The president and land manager for Threshold were out of town Wednesday and no one else at the company could comment.
The well pad and pit are on Shafer's BLM allotment on Crow Flat, about 28 miles northeast of Dell City.
Shafer said she wants Threshold to pump out the remaining sludge and install a new liner. She said she's also worried about soil contamination because the company was dumping water on the pad site and dirt road.
The ranchers are considering blockading the road to the well site to prevent Threshold from moving in a drilling rig until it finishes cleaning up the sludge, Oliver said.
Copyright 2003 Albuquerque Journal
I wonder if they also tested the ranchers stock tank and watering hole.
Some are and some aren't. Depends on the corporate culture and the local regulatory agency. The big boys are pretty good about that stuff, but some independents just trying stay alive on a 5 bbl/day stripper well will dig and cover if it makes the difference between operating and shutting down.
A national data base for these lawsuits needs to be established and you are right, anybody who has ever traveled that area would immediately recognize the frivolous nature of this mess.
Well there are few blades on the side of highway 54.
Let me know if you wish to be added or removed from this list.
I've never seen one filled with Culligan water. I guess I must have missed the latest regulation printed in CFR.
But this appears to be an issue of ranchers running livestock on BLM land not wanting oil companies to be able to exercise legal leases. That is not a private property rights matter, IMHO.
The U.S. buys oil from Saudi Arabia not natural gas. The Otero Mesa area is a potential natural gas field, even if it turns out to be a huge producer it will not effect the U.S.'s oil imports from Saudi Arabia or anybody else.
I fully recognize that. I also recognize that natural gas and oil also serve as fuels for electric generating plants. When the price of one goes up, then those plants that can use the other, do so.
Natural gas is enjoying great populatity right now despite its relatively high price because the EPA makes oil burning that much more expensive. Given domestic source of both natural gas and oil, the costs of electrity generation drop which usually serves as a great way for domestic industries more competitive in the world market. With more oil available, the increased supply would reduce the demand for the more expensive natural gas. With the fickle situation of the Middle East, oil futures laden with risk aversion tend to run higher making natural gas consumption higher, decreasing the supply...
Natural gas only plays a part in the energy equation.
Oil is far too expensive to use as a fuel for electrical generation except under extreme or emergency conditions; for example portable generators use diesel fuel because of its availabilty for rapid deployment situations. Oil is not even considered as a fuel for site built power plants except for emergency backups, for example during a disruption of the gas supply dur to pipeline problems.
New electrical generation power plants use natural gas in a gas turbine configuration because of the ability to bring the plants online very rapidly, the overall efficency of the gas turbine design, and their extremely low emmissions. The gas turbine can be used most effectively in a demand management or "peaking" profile. Oil is far too expensive to use in a similar configuration except on a local basis primarily as diesel generators. Typically this occurs during demand curtailment periods when extremely high demand charges are in effect. Even those applications are gradually being converted to natural gas sources as new equipment and distribution systems become available.
Almost all base load power plants use coal as the fuel source because of it low cost.
A very few antiquated oil burning power plants still exist nationwide but they are never used except on an emergency basis and are being phased out as rapidly as possible. They are far too expensive to operate. Natural gas is enjoying great populatity right now despite its relatively high price because the EPA makes oil burning that much more expensive. Given domestic source of both natural gas and oil, the costs of electrity generation drop which usually serves as a great way for domestic industries more competitive in the world market. With more oil available, the increased supply would reduce the demand for the more expensive natural gas. With the fickle situation of the Middle East, oil futures laden with risk aversion tend to run higher making natural gas consumption higher, decreasing the supply...
Natural gas only plays a part in the energy equation.
The price of oil would have to drop to pre-1973 levels and remain there for an extended period of time before it would become viable as an alternative source for cost effective electrical generation. Even then a huge investment in infastructure modifications would be required. Obviously neither of those things is going to happen.
The price of natural gas has risen because we have greatly increased its usuage for the previously mentioned "peaking" generators. Even if all EPA regulations concerning oil burning were revoked oil would not be a competitor for natural gas for electrical generation purposes.