We all talk about them and New Mexico needs them.
New Mexico needs jobs, especially high paying jobs. These jobs keep our sons and daughters here, and they stimulate our economy.
But again the state of New Mexico is losing a chance at high paying jobs. The recently released Bureau of Land Management (BLM) draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for the Tri-County area that covers Dona Ana, Otero and Sierra Counties defers action on fluid mineral leasing and development in the three counties.
This effectively stops oil and gas drilling there for the foreseeable future. The BLM states the primary reason for this action is concern over Otero Mesa.
Yet the DEIS spreads that concern to all BLM managed lands in the three counties.
That doesn’t make sense.
Oil and gas revenues alone fund over a third of our state budget. Potash, copper and uranium mining also provide millions of dollars to our state and thousands of jobs to New Mexico citizens.
The services New Mexicans need cannot be funded without utilizing revenues from these mineral resources, unless, as some suggest, we either raid the permanent fund or we raise taxes.
Neither of these options is appealing or necessary.
Now though, just when we have a chance to improve our revenues and create jobs, our state is thumped again. This decision by the BLM potentially costs New Mexico millions of dollars and Otero, Dona Ana, and Sierra Counties lose out on jobs and opportunities.
Otero Mesa itself can be responsibly developed. Its environment and the underlying water can be protected. Oil and gas development can be successfully integrated with existing ranching operations. Oil and gas companies can again prove they are able to work in demanding environments and effectively minimize the results of their presence.
Plans for the Bennett Ranch area on Otero Mesa call for wells to be drilled on 640 acre spacing. There will be a road to the well site, a pipeline leaving the site and the christmas tree that controls the wellhead pressure.
Modern drilling operations and casing programs are designed to protect water sources and to leave a small footprint.
Operators no longer use 1940s technology or equipment. They can develop these valuable resources without harming the environment.
The BLM already has the rules and regulations in place covering the Bennett Ranch area that allow for oil and gas development. The Tri-County DEIS can build on those rules, where needed, to provide for reasonable leasing and development opportunities.
The two existing wells on Otero Mesa were drilled over 15 years ago; it is hard to believe this issue remains unresolved.
While Gov. Richardson may have successfully made Otero Mesa the centerpiece of his environmental agenda, he most certainly cost New Mexicans opportunities. New Mexico lost millions of dollars.
We need a different approach — one that benefits New Mexico.
The BLM should allow continued development on the Bennett Ranch area of Otero Mesa and they should not use the Tri-County DEIS to delay potential additional development.
This has gone on for far too long.
Republican Sen. Ron Griggs represents Otero, Dona Ana and Eddy counties. Contact him at: