New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson recently extended by six months a ban on new oil and gas drilling in Santa Fe County and the Galisteo Basin to allow for more research of protections for water aquifers, archaeological and cultural resources as well as wildlife in the area. The extended moratorium runs through Jan. 24.
"I remain gravely concerned that oil and gas drilling activities could negatively affect those resources, so I have extended the temporary moratorium to allow further information gathering and protections to be put in place," Richardson said.
Under the extended moratorium, the Oil Conservation Division of the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department will halt for six months the processing of permit applications for oil and gas drilling in the county and basin. The governor's order also directs:
Bob Gallagher, president of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, told NGI that the association is considering a legal challenge to the moratorium extension. "Obviously we're disappointed," he said. "Any sort of moratorium against what we believe is our legal right to produce those natural resources ought to be of grave concern to the entire industry."
Richardson is not alone among governors in expressing a commitment "to protecting ground water, archaeological, cultural and wildlife areas" in regions where oil and gas exploration and production companies are active or wish to be. His fellow governor Bill Ritter of Colorado has been a foe of the industry's desire to drill on the state's Roan Plateau. In March a drilling plan for the plateau was approved without most of the protections that Ritter advocated (see NGI, March 17).
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