The New Mexico Oil Conservation Commission delayed a decision to approve an energy company’s request to increase well density in two northern New Mexico counties. At its meeting on Thursday, the commission also rejected a community group’s request to intervene in the hearing. Hilcorp Energy Company’s Justin Furnace emailed a statement on Thursday evening. “The Commission made it clear today that the application has merit, but at the Commission’s request, Hilcorp will be re-notifying affected operators in the San Juan Basin to ensure that they are aware of the proposed change,” Furnace wrote. Hilcorp asked the state to amend the “pool rule,” or well density requirements, in the Blanco-Mesaverde Gas Pool in San Juan and Rio Arriba counties. Under the current rules, companies can drill four wells within the designated 320-acre spacing units, and only two can be drilled within each 160-acre section.
FARMINGTON, N.M. – Thousands of abandoned mines in New Mexico, Colorado and other Western states pose as much of a toxic threat, or greater, as the Gold King Mine in Colorado, which leaked three million gallons of toxic sludge and mine waste into the Animas River following an accidental discharge last week. Part of the larger Colorado River system, the Animas is a tributary of the San Juan River, which flows into Lake Powell and mixes with Colorado River water. Farmington is among several downstream communities devastated by the spill. Mike Eisenfeld with the San Juan Citizens Alliance says the Gold King Mine spill is just a sample of the threat posed by century-old abandoned mines. “There’s probably about 20,000 historic, abandoned mines in the Four Corners area,” he says.
President Theodore Roosevelt declared Chaco Canyon to be an historical monument on March 11, 1907, and 108 years later to the day, a coalition of environmental groups leveled a lawsuit against the federal government alleging inadequate protection of the area. John Horning, executive director of WildEarth Guardians in Santa Fe, said on Wednesday that the timing was coincidental but appropriate, representing “another important milestone in the effort to protect Greater Chaco.” The primary threat to Chaco Canyon in Roosevelt’s time was looting of archaeologically and culturally precious sites, said Horning. “Today the threat is oil and gas development and fracking in particular.” Horning said the groups who brought the lawsuit hope to not only halt industry activity in the Chaco area, but to set “the foundation for a much better movement.”