SANDOVAL COUNTY PLANNING AND ZONING COMMISSION RECOMMENDS OIL AND GAS ORDINANCE

On September 12, 2107, the Sandoval County Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) voted (3-2) to recommend an ordinance regulating oil and gas drilling to the Sandoval County Commission. They also voted to attach a memorandum containing some information that was presented by citizens at the meeting for consideration.
ES-CA is disappointed in this vote and continues to believe that the proposed ordinance is very weak. ES-CA supports the citizen ordinance in full.
The County Commission is scheduled to meet on Thursday, September 21, at 6pm at the County Administration Building. An agenda has not yet been posted, but it is expected that the Commission will discuss and possibly vote on this matter.
It is important that residents express their views on this matter directly to the County Commissioners. Copies of the draft ordinance (there were some changes made at the meeting) and the citizens ordinance are posted on the P & Z website. In addition, a previous post on the ES-CA Forum outlines our concerns.

Citizens Proposed Ordinance

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COMMENTS TO THE SANDOVAL COUNTY ZONING AND PLANNING COMMISSION CONCERNING THE PROPOSED OIL AND GAS DRILLING ORDINANCE

On behalf of the Eastern Sandoval Citizens Association, I would like to make the following comments concerning the Oil and Gas Ordinance, as proposed by the Commission:

First and foremost, this proposal changes the type of use for oil and gas drilling from special to permissive.
• This change would permit oil and gas drilling to be sited anywhere in the County without public review.
• Designating oil and gas drilling as a permissive use places the decision-making power in the hands of the appointed director of the Planning and Zoning Department.
• There is no requirement for any public hearings.
• There is no requirement for any public notice.
• There is no requirement for a public vote.

We are opposed to changing the use designation from special to permissive. By planning to do so, the County subverts the democratic process.

A use of this magnitude should be discussed in public, with sufficient notice to the public, and decided by the County officials elected by the people of this County.

We call upon this body and especially, the County Commission to maintain the current use designation for oil and gas drilling as a special use. To do otherwise, the County Commission is abdicating its duty to the citizens of the County – the people who elected them to protect the health, safety and welfare of us all.

• ES-CA is also opposed to the paucity of requirements listed in the proposed ordinance. The requirements do not adequately address needed protections for:
 Impact to groundwater
 Emergency response
 Noise
 Air
 Road use
 Hazardous waste
 Solid waste
 Site remediation
 Appropriate fees
 Enforcement
• ES-CA supports, instead, an ordinance submitted by Alan Friedman, which does adequately address the above issues and provides a clear framework for an applicant to follow.
• ES-CA is not opposed to oil and gas drilling, or any form of proper economic development. However, ES-CA is opposed to actions and activities that would harm the health, safety and welfare of citizens in this County.
• ES-CA supports an oil and gas ordinance that provides clear, detailed requirements, that protect the health safety and welfare of citizens, and provides environmental protections for all.
• Such an ordinance will protect the citizens and the environment, while providing the industry with an unambiguous set of requirements that are not subject to interpretation and subjectivity.

This Commission and the County Commission should listen to the citizens that they represent. We have seen the results of lax zoning regulations and lax enforcement. We hope that this body and the County Commission will fulfill the duties given to them by the people and adopt an ordinance that provides transparency and responsibility.

Respectfully submitted,

Eastern Sandoval Citizens Association Board of Directors
September 11, 2017

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Vulcan Mining Settlement Approved

On August 10, 2017, the Sandoval County Commission voted unanimously to approve the attached settlement ( Settlement__08-10-17 ) with Vulcan, the current mining operator, and Mt Adams, the property owner. The agreement includes phasing of the reclamation with the area south of the Arroyo (see the Settlement Exhibit B—Areas 1 and 2) being completed and reclaimed within 6 years and mining in the final Areas 3 and 4 being completed within 9 years and all reclamation finished 9 months later. The Effective Date of this settlement is the date it was approved by the Commission (so timing is to be measured from that date).

The ES-CA Land Protection Trust will continue to monitor progress, and will work to set up ongoing lines of communication with Vulcan and Mt Adams to ensure adherence to the agreement as well as to look for appropriate solutions to issues that arise during the remaining operations.  A “first order of business” will be to work with concerned members of the Sundance HOA who want to discuss mining plans along the planned buffer area adjoining their properties and may want adjustments to the protective berm on that buffer.  LPT Board Member and Sundance resident, Diane Pellechio, will chair that activity for the HOA.

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Gravel Lawsuit Settlement Agreement Posted

The final agreement is now available ( Part_1Part_2 ).  We were able to effect a couple of changes in the final (changes shown in underlines) that we felt better reflected the term sheet that all parties approved at the earlier negotiation.

As we indicated at Friday night’s meeting, we firmly believe this is the best settlement that can be achieved without taking unacceptable risk and cost of going to trial.  To have this agreement backed by the power of the Courts to compel correction of any breach; all mining completed in 9 years from Thursday (assuming the Commission approves as we expect); and the final reclamation done 9 months later, finally removes the big unknown that has plagued us for many years.

We know we still have work to do to open ongoing lines of communication with Vulcan–and expect that can happen once the litigation is behind us.  Meanwhile, we will be working with the surrounding HOA’s to gain consensus on items that still need to be mitigated (e.g. as this was a lawsuit pertaining only to zoning violations, there are other issues that need such a forum in order to be brought to Vulcan’s attention and mitigated; we need to know if Sundance Mesa residents want the berm, etc).

While Chair Chapman and Vice Chair Heil approved the settlement term sheet, this still must be approved by a majority vote at this Thursday’s Commission meeting.  We (the interveners) plan to be there supporting the approval action, and hope that any who might disagree will contact us so that we can share experience and knowledge gained over the last 4 years that has led us to our conclusion that we need to do this, now.

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ES-CA LPT Shares Settlement Details at Town Meeting

On Friday, July 21, ES-CA held a meeting at the Las Placitas Presbyterian church to discuss the settlement of the County’s lawsuit against Vulcan, Mt. Adams, et al.

The presentation and subsequent Q&A session was handled by Dick Ulmer and Steve Vaughan who are ES-CA members and Land Use Protection Trust (LPT) Board Directors, and were appointed to represent ES-CA in this legal action—and were approved by the court as Interveners representing ES-CA and as individual property owners claiming personal damage due to the alleged zoning violations.

We were pleased to have County Commission Chair Don Chapman (and his wife) join us for the event and share some of his thoughts about the settlement as well as providing insight into the process to appoint a new Commissioner to the recently vacated District 1 seat—an appointment that will be very important to this community.

The audience questions were excellent, and mostly involved clarification of points made during the presentation and the unexpected (by many) impact of the scope of mining in the Northeast area once designated as the “Sundance Mesa Buffer Area.” Most residents of that area, who were aware of the previous agreement made with the then mining operator, Western Mobile—did not understand that the agreement was limited to the term of the original lease and was not binding on the land owner of the property being mined.  It was a private agreement not tied to the land, and the current operator Vulcan is under a new and different lease than the predecessor operators.

The residents to the south, who had a similar surprise several years ago when the adjoining ridgelines came down before mining was completed in all other areas as we had expected to be the case, will get some relief when the mining and reclamation south of the arroyo completes in 6 years, but the most important outcome is that all surrounding residents finally have a date certain for mining to end rather than the unknown that we’ve been experiencing. All mining will be completed in phases over 9 years, and the reclamation of the final areas will be finished 9 months later.

ES-CA and the LPT committed to continuing to work with residents being affected by the mining during this remaining period, and will work with Vulcan and the County to set up lines of communications where specific issues can be addressed and mutually agreeable solutions implemented.

The County Commissioners must formally approve the agreement and are expected to do that as early as the meeting this coming Thursday If it is not approved this Thursday, Chair Chapman indicated that he would call a special session so that this can be approved as soon as possible and the countdown to mining completion officially begun. We plan to post the agreement when we get the final revisions.

Following is a link to the charts used during last night’s presentation. Please contact ES-CA through its website at ES-CA.org if you would like more information or are ready to get involved in this important community action activity.  ESCA7-21-17TownMtg(Post)

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Sandoval County Oil and Gas Drilling Ordinance

It is extremely important that folks attend the P&Z and Cty. Comm. meetings, that they speak in opposition of fracking our land and in support of community “partners” ie. The Pueblos, Indian Health Services, Soil & Water Conservation Districts, the Sierra Club, 350 and other EXPERTS who would be able to contribute writing QUALITY oil and gas ordinances.  There are 3 things that need hammered home from EVERYONE who speaks — 1) millions of gallons of water are needed to frack 1 well, these gallons cannot ever be used again due to fracking fluid contamination 2) P&Z and Cty. Comm. staff cannot be trusted to give accurate, complete or pertinent professional advice to commissioners and 3) This issue is like no other and all proponents of fracking do not in anyway have the health, safety and well being of our community in mind.
 
Rarely are external costs considered for extractive industries and our commissioners are no exception.  Fracked gas transportation infrastructure and road maintenance is on the taxpayer.  All kinds of pollution results in staggering health costs to residents.  Often once externalities reach fever pitch, the oil and gas company declares bankruptcy leaving what can be cleaned up to the taxpayer.  Meanwhile seismic activity increases at a staggering rate.  Property values plummet.  The argument for economic growth and development pails, when short term profit goes out of state and taxpayers are left footing a very expensive bill to remedy.  “All of the above” is over.  In Sandoval County we have an opportunity to become the solar capital of NM USA.  We also have wind and we have a diverse workforce that can rise to a clean energy challenge.  Externalities for renewables we can live with and profit from.
 
There is no such thing as a pipeline that doesn’t leak.  Fracking wells, vertical, horizontal or a combination of both are essentially an in-ground deep pipeline.  If 1 well, exploratory or injected, leaks into our aquifer, the Albuquerque Basin, then our water source is over.  There is no cleanup.  Fracking is THE most important issue our community will experience in our life time.  We have an opportunity to protect our land, water and people for generations to come.  If we stay home, are silent or complacent, the beautiful community of Placitas will perish…
 
Pam Neas

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Sandoval County Oil and Gas Drilling Ordinance Update

The Sandoval County Planning and Zoning Commission (P & Z) met on Tuesday, July 11, 2017, to discuss the Oil and Gas Drilling part of the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance. It has been over one year since the Sandoval County Commission (Commission) requested that P&Z provide an ordinance to regulate oil and gas drilling. The latest draft of the ordinance is available on the County’s website.

The hearing had an overflow attendance with speakers from all areas of the County, the Pueblos, Albuquerque, and State Representative Derrick Lente.

The hearing began with a talk by Chairman Arango. He noted that the two options available to the County were: (1) proceed with crafting an ordinance that would have set regulations to apply to every application, no matter how different each one would be from another; or. (2) have no new ordinance and process each application as a special use where the P&Z, and, ultimately, the Commission would decide approval or denial based on the particulars of that application.

The next presentation was by the Assistant County Council who talked about State and Federal preemption of County ordinances. She noted that Federal and State law pre-empt County law and that the County should not adopt ordinances that either conflict or go further that Federal or State law.

Makita Hill, Assistant Director of the P&Z, made the next presentation. He said that the draft ordinance was in compliance with all State and Federal laws. He noted that State law deals with issues other than zoning and that the County ordinance deals just with zoning issues. Commissioner Maduena said that he was not comfortable with the State’s ability to inspect and enforce the regulations and asked why horizontal drilling is not regulated. Mr. Hill listed all of the State programs that deal with the issues of water quality, air quality, solid waste regulation and others.

The meeting was then opened to the public for comment. As previously noted, commenters came from all over the County and the Tribes and even from Albuquerque. Comments concerned water quality and the monitoring thereof. One person noted that water quality protection is a zoning issue and should be in the ordinance.

Representative Lente asked why there had been no outreach to the Pueblos, Navajo Nation or the towns and cities within the County.

As it stands now, the draft ordinance does not deal with any environmental, health or safety issues. It is just a zoning document. While the State and Federal governments do have regulations in place to protect water quality, air quality, manage disposal of waste and other technical issues, it is not clear that these entities require extensive prior information on how drilling would or could affect these resources and most of the enforcement is left up to the oil and gas companies.

ES-CA continues to insist that the ordinance be broadened to encompass regulations pertaining to environmental, health and safety issues and that the County assume a role in the enforcement of the regulations.

Everyone is encouraged to attend both the P&Z meetings and the Commission meetings and to become involved in this issue.

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Placitas Packs the Room at 5/4/2017 Commission Meeting

Written by Dick Ulmer of the ES-CA Land Protection Trust:

At the May 4 Sandoval County Commission, the Commissioners met in closed session to discuss the litigation with Vulcan. A pending settlement agreement has been reached between Vulcan and the County. However, if the Commissioners agree to such a settlement, it will allow an expansion of the area to be mined by removing a key buffer area protecting residents surrounding the mining operation, and further extend the duration of the mining activity. Thanks to all the Placitas residents that attended this meeting.

We expect our County government to fight for us. We expect that County staff will work in the best interests of Sandoval County residents. We do not believe that the proposed settlement is in the best interests of Sandoval County residents. We had a standing-room-only packed commission chambers and several of us delivered our messages during the public comment period so that the Commissioners are informed and we have the proper information on record (the meeting was recorded and can be reviewed on the County website). What we felt to be an acceptable solution is fair and equitable to all parties.

The commissioners were not permitted to comment as it was regarding “pending litigation.” At the end of the session they went into closed session to talk about the case. When they came out they still didn’t have anything to say (although on the video that the chairman said, “no action was taken”—but we do not know what that means to us).

We had expected that one of the terms of the Vulcan proposal would require that the settlement would be filed in 5 days—and we have not seen any notice of that happening. We will continue to fight for a fair settlement and we will post new information as we receive it.

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Mandatory Trash Collection

By George Franzen, Sandoval County is proposing to award a franchise to a single exclusive waste collection company to operate in unincorporated [outside city limits] Sandoval County. This means if you do not want that company to pick up your trash you will be responsible for disposing of the trash yourself. Basically, meaning you will have to take the trash to the landfill yourself. No other person, small operator or entity will be authorized to pick up your waste material. There will be no competition on service or pricing. In addition, a 10% franchise fee will be paid to Sandoval County by the company based on the gross residential collection fee.

Where is Sandoval County in this process? The “request for proposal” [RFP] was authorized in July 2016, issued to all companies in August 2016 and 2 finalists were selected in October 2016. Sandoval County posted on the 19th of January 2017 [which was a Sunday], on their website, dates for 4 public hearing on this subject. The dates were the 23rd, 24th, 25th, and the 26th of January 2017. Due in part to the huge out cry at the 25th of January public hearing in Placitas the county decided to hold another public hearing/work shop sometime in March 2017, the date is still TBD.

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New County Resolution against gravel?

By Dick Ulmer – On Thursday evening, January 12, Placitas showed the new slate of County Commissioners just how strongly we feel about the gravel mines that threaten our property values, our water resources and even the air we breathe. Wearing the bright yellow stickers (thank you, Doug and Pat Sporn for providing those) which literally shouted from the Commission chambers “Stop Placitas Gravel Mining!”—the 70 seats in the room went quickly and even the standing areas were filled. The Commission Chairman wasted no time in acknowledging the Placitas presence, stating “We’ve never had this many attend one of our meetings—and thank you for being here!”

Bob Gorrell, ES-CA President, and Dick Ulmer, LPT Chairman, briefly shared with the Commission the research done in cooperation with Las Placitas Association—showing them the substantial economic benefits of those who had been attracted to our community by its peace and beauty. But then Big Gravel raised its ugly head, expanding without reclamation or concern for the impact on surrounding residents—and now with the potential of yet another “top 5” sized mine with the potential lease/sale of BLM land increasing the gravel sandwich of Placitas neighborhoods. We shared results gathered recently from the particulate monitor installed by NM Air Quality Bureau and on water use comparisons from local water cooperatives—all of which point to the importance of having conforming uses of Placitas lands, and not continued mining activity.

Our purpose with the Commission was twofold:
1) To enlist their continued help in communicating to state and federal officials the inconsistency with County policy as represented by Placitas Plan
2) To impress on them the importance of the Commission providing the resources and need for urgency in winning the current lawsuit filed by the County to enforce zoning terms on landowners and gravel operators arguing that no such oversight exists.
As we told the Commission—our residents need to know that we can “count on the County” in protecting our properties and conforming land uses against those who choose to be non-conforming.
We were encouraged by the attentiveness and questions that followed the presentation. They have agreed that they should look again at the Resolution that was issued by the prior Commission, with the intent passing it again and for the purpose of demonstrating the continued support by this Commission for uses of the BLM land which are consistent with the shared vision of the County and Placitas residents.

As the Commissioners could not publicly comment on the pending litigation, we will closely watch what happens in the courtroom for confirmation that they also understand the significance of our second request. . . and the opportunity for the County to regain its economic potential by restoring the quality of life that brought us to Placitas.

We thank each and every one of you who turned out in order to put a really big exclamation mark at the end of our message!

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