The ruins of Fort Union in Mora County, N.M.
jimmywayne
The ruins of Fort Union in Mora County, N.M.

Mora County, N.M., has a message for the oil and gas industry: “You’re not welcome here.”

County commissioners voted 2-1 on Monday to ban all oil and gas extraction in their drought-ravaged county near Santa Fe, home to fewer than 5,000 people. A temporary drilling moratorium is already in place in neighboring San Miguel County, but it is believed that Mora County is the first in the nation to impose an outright ban on all oil and gas drilling.

From E&E Newsvia NRDC:

Commissioner Alfonso Griego said “he supported the measure because he feels that federal and state laws fail to adequately protect communities from the impacts of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.” He also stated: “They just come in and do whatever is necessary for them to make profits. There is technology for them to do it right, but it’s going to cost them more money. They’re not willing to do that yet. So we don’t want any oil and gas extraction in the county of Mora. It’s beautiful here.”

Any detractors? Oh, yeah, here’s an industry guy saying things to the AP:

Wally Drangmeister, a spokesman for the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, said the potential of the natural gas deposits in the area may never be known if exploration isn’t allowed and that could result in lost revenues for the county, as well as the rest of New Mexico.

The county commissioners also adopted a bill of rights that asserts Mora County’s right to block drilling, even if the state or federal governments try to allow it. Again from the AP:

In addition to putting the county off limits to oil and gas development, the ordinance establishes a bill of rights aimed at affirming the county’s right to local autonomy and self-governance.

The ordinance states that any permits or licenses issued by either the federal or state government that would allow activities that would compromise the county’s rights would be considered invalid.

“This is the fight that people have been too chicken to pick over the last 10 years, which is essentially deciding who makes decisions about the future of the places where we live,” said Thomas Linzey, executive director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund. “Either it’s the people who live there or it’s the corporations that have an interest in exploiting them. It’s very basic.”

Congratulations, Mora County. May you continue to conserve and enjoy your precious groundwater supplies and clean environment.