NM county makes changes to draft drilling proposal

September 21, 2013 • State News

LAS VEGAS, N.M. (AP) — Boosting the fee that oil and natural gas developers would have to pay to apply for a permit to operate in San Miguel [auth] County is one of several changes commissioners have asked for to strengthen a proposal that would govern the extraction of fossil fuels throughout the county.

Commissioners met this week to discuss changes to the draft ordinance and agreed to a $25,000 application fee to help the county cover the costs of permitting and monitoring, The Optic reported (

County Manager Les Montoya said the county would likely have to hire two people to process applications and another person to inspect wells. The county would also have to contract with a hearing officer.

The commissioners also asked that the ordinance cap the number of permits that will be issued during that first year and that those permits be limited to only exploratory wells, those that are drilled to determine if there is oil or gas in a specific area.

The commissioners and a California-based consultant who is helping draft the ordinance have yet to sort out some details, such as what the permit cap will be.

The draft ordinance would require applicants to submit a number of studies before any drilling can begin, including a water availability assessment report. Commissioners said this week they want to add language that would put groundwater resources off limits to developers due to the scarcity of the resource in San Miguel County.

Despite the changes requested, Commission Chairman Nicolas Leger praised the 111-page draft ordinance as comprehensive.

“We’re well on our way,” he said.

Commissioners plan to review the proposal again in October.

Public meetings will likely be scheduled in late November or early December.

Oil and gas drilling has been a controversial topic in San Miguel County and the city of Las Vegas in recent years. Some environmental activists have been pushing for an outright ban on drilling in the county, while proponents of the industry have been pressuring county officials to allow extraction.

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