Sandoval Signpost

 

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Railroad tank cars intended to haul crude oil sit empty after the town of Bernalillo shut down a truck-rail transload operation over a lack of proper zoning. Photo credit: —Bill Diven

Oil company falters in opening Bernalillo terminal

—Bill Diven

Just as the feds clamped down on shipping North Dakota crude oil by rail, trucks hauling New Mexico crude began stealthy trips to a railroad spur in Bernalillo.

The town government, unaware until contacted by nervous trackside residents in Llanito, branded the truck-rail oil transfers a zoning violation and shut it down. Since then, Houston-based NuDevco Midstream Development has filed to amend the zoning for the mothballed Centex American Gypsum wallboard plant it’s leasing on North Hill Road.

“Clearly we’re disappointed they moved forward without the proper permitting and licenses,” Mayor Jack Torres told the Signpost. “It’s frustrating the company would go forward without doing that… We were fortunate some of the neighbors alerted us.”

Steven McCain, vice president of NuDevco’s parent company Marlin Midstream Inc., told the Signpost that Torres was supposed to be invited to an earlier meeting of interested parties the company requested through local economic developers.

“We did not catch that neither he nor anyone from the city was absent from that meeting and have apologized to him personally for that oversight,” McCain said.  

The company also disputes whether the town could shut down the operation without further investigation but is cooperating anyway, McCain added.

Llanito residents first knew something was up when the BNSF Railway began spotting tank cars on tracks outside the Centex plant in the middle of the night. The BNSF generally switches industries late at night to avoid conflicts with Rail Runner Express commuter trains.

During the day, residents saw 18-wheel tank trucks coming off U.S. Highway 550 carrying crude oil from the Four Corners area. The operation began on May 1 but stopped after town building inspector Joe Benney delivered a notice of zoning violation on May 7.

Concerns in Llanito go beyond an industry handling hazardous materials appearing without warning. Locals worry about an oil spill damaging the private wells they rely on for household water. They also worry about a fire or explosion, given recent rail crashes in the U.S. and Canada.

“Can they do it safely?” said one Llanito resident who asked not to be identified by name. “We’re six-generation people here. If they ruin our whole essence of living here, we’re done. We’ll have to live with it, drink the water and smell the burned air.”

Markings identify the railroad tank cars as the older DOT-111 model in common use across the country for moving up to 34,000 gallons each of crude oil, ethanol, and commodities. The same day the town ordered NuDevco’s operation halted, an emergency order from the Federal Railroad Administration urged against using DOT-111 cars to haul fracking-produced oil from the Bakken Field in North Dakota.

While northwestern New Mexico’s San Juan Basin produces a light crude oil, the light crude from the Bakken Field is unusually volatile. That revelation came after a runaway oil train in July derailed and exploded in downtown Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing 47 people. Since then, derailments and collisions involving Bakken crude have prompted evacuations and spectacular fires but no further loss of life.

It was also on May 7 that NuDevco filed to amend the special-use zoning that limits the Centex property to producing wallboard. A NuDevco sister company, Associated Energy Services, is buying the crude oil and trucking it down U.S. 550 to Bernalillo.

In its filings for a town business license and the zoning amendment, the company says it has prepared emergency-response plans, will operate 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and schedule most trucks to avoid the morning and evening commuter rushes. It also says a vapor-control system will keep airborne pollutants below permitting levels although a permit may be needed in the future.

Starting with six-to-eight truckloads, totaling one thousand barrels of oil a day, the operation is expected to grow to four thousand barrels a day. With the recent Interstate 25 interchange overhaul severing the U.S. 550-Hill Road intersection, the loaded trucks turn south before taking the new loop road under U.S. 550 to reach North Hill Road.

The company also reports hiring a local resident to manage the terminal, which is forecast to grow from 13 high-wage terminal and driver jobs to 34 over time.

News reports last year said Marlin Midstream was purchasing a 28-acre, rail-served industrial property near Albuquerque to open a large transload terminal. That deal didn’t happen, although McCain said the company is still interested in developing small-to-medium sites in New Mexico and other states.

Town officials told the Signpost that the earliest the Planning and Zoning Commission will consider the company’s zoning application would be at its July 8 meeting. The commission’s recommendation then goes to the town council.

About fifty track miles to the northwest, residents of Lamy are fighting a proposal by Oklahoma-based Pacer Energy Marketing and the Santa Fe Southern Railroad, which wants to transload oil trucked in from the Farmington area. Three members of the state’s congressional delegation have written to Pacer seeking clarification on the project and asking how the oil terminal will benefit the historic Santa Fe County community.

Oil marketers also truck San Juan Basin crude south to the BNSF at Thoreau in McKinley County. The 2014 Legislature approved $300,000 dollars to study building a long-discussed direct rail line from Farmington to the BNSF main line.


Leadership Sandoval County accepting applications

—Susan Sheridan

Applications are now being accepted for the Class of 2015 Leadership Sandoval County (LSC), a program of the Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce. The Leadership Sandoval County program will be celebrating its 22nd Anniversary with the Class of 2015. It has 470 Alumni in diverse types of businesses within the local community.

Leadership Sandoval County is open to any individual interested in personal and professional growth, community service, and the development of leadership skills. This ten-month program is uniquely designed to engage emerging, and existing, leaders through civic leadership development to benefit the Sandoval County region. Curriculum each month covers topics to include City/County/State Government; community image building and diversity; health and human services, economic development; criminal justice; education; and tourism. Session days are held on the second Wednesdays of each month.

Selection process is held June 23 to June 27 and July 7 to July 18. Applicants’ applications go through a scoring process. The selection committee will then select the final class participants from the combined scores of interviews. Finalists will be notified that they have been selected to participate in the Class of 2015 in early August. The first session is a two-day retreat on September 4 to September 5, with an overnight stay.

The class is limited to forty participants, enabling the participants the opportunity to network and work together to accomplish the variety of community and leadership building exercises during the program. Applications are available online at www.rrrcc.org/news-updates/leadership-sandoval-county-adult-program/. The deadline for applicants is June 27, by 4:00 p.m. Take applications to the Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce Office. For more information, contact Susan Sheridan at 999-1835 or ssheridan@rrrcc.org.


See new ways to explore the Valles Caldera

The Valles Caldera National Preserve has launched a series of new programs for the summer season, offering visitors many new options for exploring this New Mexico treasure. The new offerings include programs that allow mountain bikers and horse riders to traverse designated trails through the preserve during the day and then camp overnight. There also are several activities for families, including the Family Fun & Games Campfire program. For this monthly event, the preserve will remain open from 5:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m, on June 28, July 12, and August 23, 2014, with a free story-time, games, and activities for children of all ages.

For a complete list of activities, visit the Valles Caldera’s welcome page at http://www.vallescaldera.gov/comevisit/index.aspx


Rio Rancho Planning and Zoning Board seeking to fill vacancies

The city of Rio Rancho is seeking applicants from City Council District 3 and 6 to fill vacancies on the Planning and Zoning Board. The board has several responsibilities including promoting a comprehensive planning process with the general purpose of guiding and accomplishing a coordinated, adjusted, aesthetically appealing, and harmonious development of the city.

Board meetings take place on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month at 6:00 p.m. at Rio Rancho City Hall, 3200 Civic Center Circle. Individuals interested in applying and serving as a volunteer on this board must submit an application form and resumé to the Office of the City Clerk. Applications will be accepted until the positions are filled. Applications can be obtained by visiting the Clerk’s office inside Rio Rancho City Hall, or by visiting the city’s website: www.ci.rio-rancho.nm.us/application.

For additional information, such as to confirm City Council District residency, contact the Clerk’s office at 891-5004.

 
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