Sandoval Signpost


An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  The Gauntlet

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letters, opinions, editorials

Signpost welcomes letters of all opinions. Letters are subject to editing for length, clarity, libel, and other considerations. Anonymous pen name letters will not be published. Attach your name and contact information. Send to: Signpost, P. O. Box 889, Placitas, NM, 87043 or

“OMG, there’s a kitten on my roof!” said Cheri. She could see it meowing in the window above their front door. “George, get the ladder!” she cried. George climbed up to save it, and came face-to-face with a momma bobcat. The bobcat didn’t hiss, but stared at him in ‘an unfriendly way.’ Recognizing that discretion is the better part of valor, George quickly descended the ladder." “We’re leaving well-enough alone,” they agreed.  
Photo credit: —Cheri Koinis

re: Wildlife, bobcats in the road

Please watch for wildlife on Highway 165 and everywhere you drive. Recently, a bobcat mother and her three kittens ran right in front of my car as I was coming down Highway 165 in Placitas. Thank God I was able to avoid hitting them.

Maybe another highway warning sign is needed. In the meantime, please be alert to wild animals and their babies crossing the roads. They are trying to survive, just like we are.

Thank you for slowing down and staying alert.

—Patricia Wolff, Santa Fe

re: Oil & gas ordinance; go to meetings, voice your opinion

John Arango, Chairman of the Sandoval County Planning and Zoning Commission made his case at the July 22nd P and Z Commission meeting for no oil and gas ordinance and instead keeping the Special Use Permit system under the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance. The Special Use Permit is governed by what he explained as Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) which can be adjusted as needed and can be strengthened at this time. These are the requirements that permit applicants will need to comply with. They can include requirements pertaining to water, air, traffic, insurance, surface contamination and more.

The Planning and Zoning Commission intends to vote on the matter at the August 8th meeting.  If the item passes it will go to the County Commission for approval. If it passes the County Commission, the P and Z Commission will still have at least some public input on the SOPs to be included in the Special Use Permitting process. These SOPs would be critical to the protections that the citizens of Sandoval County want and need.

This was a fairly unexpected twist to the oil and gas issues in Sandoval County. Given the current climate in the Oil Conservation Division (OCD), and the reluctance of the County to draft a quality oil and gas ordinance that would take on powers that the OCD has ignored for various reasons, the Special Use option with explicit and strengthened SOPs may be the best compromise that the public can expect to get.

Until tonight I have not considered that the Special Use Permit was anything but the same old thing and totally inadequate. I thought that there was hope for a quality oil and gas ordinance even though the Draft was so very far from the needed end document. But we don’t vote on the matter and the vote will take place at the next meeting.  Given the previous discussions in both Commissions, it has a high probability of being approved.

If you don’t want the Special Use Permit, show up and voice your opinion. If you see the need for some quality protections and the Special Use Permit is voted in favor of, voice your opinion on the quality of the SOPs and the manner in which they are administered over. These may be all that will stand between us and a polluted Albuquerque Basin.

—Mike Neas , Placitas

re: Award-winning film to be shown on hydraulic fracturing (fracking); discussion of Sandoval County’s oil and gas ordinance to follow

Sandoval County is in the process of amending its Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance to deal with oil and gas extraction through drafting an oil and gas ordinance.

The draft ordinance has serious flaws and does not require oil and gas companies to conduct environmental impact assessments before drilling; lacks considerations for cultural, archeological, recreational and wildlife sites; and much more.

Now, the County is considering whether to scrap the ordinance process and instead approve drilling permits using Special Use provisions.

Join us for a free showing of the compelling Emmy Award-winning documentary ‘Split Estate’ that shows the dirty side of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and its broader impacts on communities.

There will be two film showings—one in Rio Rancho on August 15 and one in Placitas on August 19. Light snacks and refreshments will be provided. Both film showings will be followed by discussion on Sandoval County’s draft oil and gas ordinance, and what you can do.

Rio Rancho—Film Showing:

August 15, from 6:00 to 8:30 p.m., at the Unitarian Universalist Westside Congregation, 1650 Abrazo Road NE, Rio Rancho 87124. RSVP to Miya King-Flaherty, Rio Grande Chapter,, 505-301-0863 .

Placitas—Film Showing:

August 19, from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m., at the Placitas Community Library, 453 NM-165, Placitas 87043. RSVP to Laura Robbins,

This film is presented by Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter, Earthworks’ Oil and Gas Accountability Project, Sandoval Citizens for a Good Oil and Gas Ordinance, and Concerned Placitas Citizens.

For further information on the ordinance, visit:

Eastern Sandoval Citizens Association report (ES-CA)

~Chris Daul, ES-CA

The Eastern Sandoval Citizens Association (ES-CA) has settled the lawsuit against Vulcan. Details of the settlement are on the ES-CA website Forum and in a another article in this issue of the Signpost [See page 5, this Signpost]. While ES-CA did not obtain every condition that they wanted, a date certain for the end of operations was agreed upon and finite boundaries, with buffers and berms, have been set. The members of the Land Protection and Use Trust worked hard to achieve this settlement and much thanks goes to them.

ES-CA is continuing to monitor the proposed Oil and Gas Drilling Ordinance that the County has been considering. ES-CA submitted the following letter to the Sandoval County Commission at their meeting on July 13.

“It has been over one year since the Sandoval County Commission called for an ordinance to regulate oil and gas drilling in the County. While the County Planning and Zoning Department has drafted an ordinance, it falls far short of providing the necessary regulations to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of this County. The ordinance, as drafted, provides some zoning guidelines but does not address the technical or engineering aspects of drilling. These regulations should include, at a minimum:

  • aquifer protection and monitoring
  • ground-water and surface water protection and monitoring
  • air-quality protection and monitoring;
  • specified days and hours of operation
  • required inspections and mandatory fees to pay the expenses of inspections
  • sound level limits
  • mandatory public hearings of applications

In addition, a full environmental impact statement, an operations manual, and a safety plan should also be required.

Enforcement is the key item missing. We cannot rely on the State to provide the level of enforcement that is necessary to protect our resources and residents. The assistant County Counsel has presented arguments about State and Federal supremacy and that the County should not exceed State or Federal requirements. Providing County enforcement does not violate or conflict with any State or Federal law. And the costs of compliance and inspection should be borne by the operator.

Chairman Chapman has said that oil and gas drilling is an economic issue. Certainly, any business development is an economic issue. ES-CA is supportive of economic growth and development in the County. But economic development should be done in a manner that benefits all the residents of the County.

The first duty of any government is to protect its citizens from harm. The health, safety, and welfare of the residents of this County is the paramount issue for the Sandoval County Commission. If the Planning and Zoning Department needs additional resources to craft a more comprehensive ordinance, then the Commission should enable that.

This issue affects most of the residents of this County, as well as over one third of the population of this State who rely on the Rio Grande basin for water. There must be input from the towns, cities, villages, Pueblos, the Navajo Nation, and the unincorporated areas of the County, as well as others who rely on the acquirers in this area. We cannot afford to have an ordinance that does not do the job properly. We have seen this Commission act in the best interests of the citizens in the past. We call on you to do that again.”

The next ES-CA meeting is scheduled for August 7, beginning at 6:30 p.m., at the Placitas Fire Station on Route 165. All are welcome to attend.

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