Sandoval Signpost

 

An independent monthly newspaper serving the community since 1988
  The Gauntlet
 

c. Rudi Klimpert

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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 Anonymous pen name letters will not be published.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 email@sandovalsignpost.com.


re: thank you, Ann Rustebakke

In October 1986, when Placitas was covered with white snow at dusk, giving the landscape a beautiful cobalt blue blush—and no homes were around—I was invited to share space at a casita in the Village of Placitas during a job search as an ex-Pat Silicon Valley refugee still suffering as a CA native over what happened to my homeland—third generation—memories of orchards before Amdahl Corporation and Intel were among the first to take that all out and put in tech industry stuff. The next morning, driving a four-door dumb yellow 1980 Nissan without air conditioning, which eventually got me here despite dropping a muffler, I decided to drive west—just a little outside of Bernalillo Town—Chile Hill!

I stopped in to see what this was, and what a warm and cozy place for an adventurer to find. Inside the little building was a counter directly to the right, and beyond that a place filled with beautiful SW/Native American things. Also there was a cheerful old wood stove throwing enough heat to make you take off your coat. Pinion incense and special Santa Ana/Sandia/San Felipe pottery just threw me off balance with all the charm such a quaint environment could offer after years working in Silicon Valley.

Ann called out, “Good Morning! Welcome!” Welcome I felt as I trolled all the interesting treasures in her shop. Everything about the little place was wonderful. What I learned that day (which today at age 77 I now know for a fact) is that kindness is its own reward because in her little warm cozy space there was a card that said as much—attributed to a Native American saying: “Kindness is its own reward.” Ann was kind and full of Placitas stories if you got her to tell you all about them. Welcome to New Mexico!

She was among the first New Mexicans I met, and her particularly lovely soft nature certainly warmed this newcomer needing comfort on a cold snowy morning. She was wise and had a great sense of humor if you got her going, too! She is missed.

Thank you, Ann.

—Chris Huber, Placitas


Eastern Sandoval Citizens Association (ES-CA) report

~Chris Daul

Many Eastern Sandoval Citizens Association (ESCA) members testified in opposition to the County Oil and Gas Ordinance at the last County Commission meeting. The Commission added amendments to the ordinance, which has resulted in the final vote being pushed into January of 2018. The amendments do not address most of the issues that have been raised by the citizens concerning overall safety and protection of drinking water and the environment. This issue will be discussed at the next ESCA meeting on December 4.

Concerning the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Buffalo Tract, ESCA and Las Placitas Association have been in discussions with the BLM about the Resource Management Plan. The Plan is supposed to be released this fall, but may be delayed until the spring. All the surrounding communities and most of the entities representing the residents of the area continue to oppose any mining on this land. 

In a State with so much Federal land situated in sparsely populated areas, the question is why would the Federal government want to force sand and gravel mining in an area of higher density population where the consensus is to use this land for recreational purposes.

Our Congressional delegation is pushing Federal legislation that would prohibit any extraction of minerals from this land.  It is hoped that the bill may move forward in 2018.

Our next meeting will be on December 4, at 6:30 p.m., at the Placitas Fire Station on Route 165. All residents are welcome to attend.

On the evening of September 21, we were three of the public who filled the Sandoval County Commission Chamber to its capacity of 100+ along with another seventy people who overflowed into a second floor room with live screening. All were present to take part in voicing non-partisan concerns about the lack of health, safety, and environmental protections in the “Stoddard Oil and Gas Ordinance.” Despite vast and vocal citizen opposition, this legislation was passed to be “published and posted” and could become law in the next few weeks.

Most important is that oil and gas companies will be granted a “permissive use” permit, which means no public hearing or input. Permits can be granted within ten days after a simple check list is deemed complete. Drilling will be allowed any time of day or night.

It was the public concern and research that kept the “bad actor” SandRidge from drilling in Rio Rancho Estates. Under permissive use, this right will be removed. 

At the Thursday meeting, the only vocal supporters of the Stoddard ordinance were four out of the five Commissioners, the director of Planning and Zoning, representatives of Thrust Energy, NM Oil and Gas Association, the state chamber of the Association of Commerce and Industry, a couple of economic development reps, and a third year law student—approximately ten people.

The memo submitted by Planning and Zoning where valid changes based on the Citizen Ordinance was never considered.

Commissioners and the Industry repeatedly stated that the Citizens draft ordinance was “Anti- Oil and Gas development” and insisted that proposed changes and regulations were prohibitively restrictive. In truth, the Citizens draft is less restrictive than the previous drafts written by the County or the Jicarilla Apache ordinance where much drilling is taking place.

The industry and County staff insist that protective regulations are unnecessary; that there has been no historical evidence of water contamination. But since the State Oil Conservation Division neither requires nor does groundwater monitoring, it is not possible to really know if there has been aquifer pollution. There are almost eight hundred self-reported spills in OCD records, even though the industry disputes that any came from drilling or fracking.

The industry claims that water-monitoring costs are prohibitive and yet expert Bob Wessley says monitoring costs are trivial (at most a few $K and mostly for initial drilling).

During the past few months, Planning and Zoning relied on testimony from the oil and gas industry and related experts. Citizens have presented a wealth of documentation from independent experts as well as government research that prove health hazards and environmental risks exist. And yet, the majority of Commissioners prefer to frame the issue as “unnecessary regulations destroy economic development.”

Bob Wessley advises that the industry would surely bring the same number of jobs and same pay under either Citizens or Stoddard ordinances, since decisions to drill are based on where there is product.

This should never be an us or them issue! We demand that the Commissioners place health, public safety, our beloved environment at the forefront of this risky development so near to our homes.

—Laura Robbins, Evey Jones, Daisy Kates, Placitas


re: from graduate school to reality: the journey of a new County Commissioner

With graduate degrees in Public Administration and Public Policy, I thought that I would be prepared to take on the challenge of a Sandoval County Commissioner. Certainly with command experience in the military, I would be prepared thought I.

Reality hit the first day. How to handle a request from a citizen’s group requesting $175,000 for a tennis court. Horses in Placitas was next. One party wanted them gone, the other party wanted them. A fellow in Placitas is building a new home and discovered archeological artifacts. What should he do? Oh yes, Casa Diaz in Bernalillo is having difficulty getting their liquor license. What might be done to help?

Then on to Santa Fe and a meeting with NM Oil and Gas Association and arguments as why the O&G Ordinance the county was considering should be approved. At this point it became clear that I had a great deal of homework to do to determine what the right course of action should be.

Right to work supporters came on like gang-busters.

Then came my selection to join the NM Association of Counties and the dizzying world of Multi-Line and Law Enforcement self-insurance pools. On next to the monthly meeting of Eastern Sandoval Citizens Association, then to Las Placitas Association.

That nagging section of Highway 165 that was sinking at the 3.5 mile marker needed to be addressed. NM District 3 Engineer Kenneth Murphy was good to his word and repairs were made on the November 16.

We lost a good man when John Arango resigned in despair from the Planning and Zoning Board after it became clear that the O&G Ordinance was going to be pushed through, come hell or high water. I have great hopes that we have an equally good man in Peter Adang.

I am greatly impressed with Sandoval County staff. Again and again they have answered my questions and pointed me in the right direction. Now if I can only figure out the Open Meetings regulations and not trip up on a “rolling quorum.”

—Dr. J. F. Holden-Rhodes, Lt. Col. of Infantry [ret], Commissioner, District 1


re: no fracking

In spite of overwhelming public opposition, hundreds and hundreds of citizens armed with “no fracking” and “water is life” signs spilled over into the hallway outside the city chambers, overflowing into the large, first floor lobby. The majority of the commissioners ignored their constituents. They were unrepentant, stocking sign ups for speakers in the room with the oil and gas industry—while hundreds of ordinary citizens were barred from signing up. Lack of transparency and back room horse-trading continue to govern the actions of the Sandoval County Commissioners.

The oil and gas industry, commissioners, and supporters somehow believe in their mythical worlds, that fear and superstition still govern the populace in regards to fracking and oil and gas exploitation. That we believe the industry’s ongoing lies that it is “safe and clean” energy. That the public does not see the methane cloud above the Four Corners area and the resistance by the industry to capture their off gassing—to save millions of dollars, but also protect public health. Citizens no longer believe in the lie of jobs, jobs, jobs. As though oil and gas jobs are sacred cows that we must bow down to in New Mexico. We know they will be for a few short seasons, and mainly to line the pockets of those who are ramming the Stoddard Ordinance down the public’s throat. Renewable, truly clean energy jobs are awaiting future generations.

Our citizens know that we have a massive slush fund, bigger than California, from oil and gas, that is being saved for some “rainy day.” When will that be?

We know that oil and gas is no longer giving us “energy independence,” but is shipped overseas for a huge profits.

In a fragile high desert Watershed that serves over one million people downstream, the commissioners deaf and mute response to the public and the 13 sovereign Pueblo Governors who have all signed a declaration against this folly, the citizens are not duped, fearful, or stupid.

The public is wiser, more nuanced and measured in our understanding of what is at risk here for the profit and greed of a few. It is irresponsible to frack our watershed.

—Anita Amstutz, Albuquerque

 
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