Monday, 14 May 2018 23:28

Stop the insanity in Sandoval County

Sandoval County Ordinance Resolution Needed

Commentary by Carla J. Sonntag, President and Founder, New Mexico Business Coalition

Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. In the case of the Sandoval County oil and gas ordinance, we seem to be playing that game, but with new features that add to the craziness.

Oil and gas operations have been in the County since the 1950s. While the idea of an ordinance isn’t new, Commissioners can’t seem to reach a decision on how to handle it. At least five times now, the Commission has had ordinances in front of them and have been unable to act.

Why? Because irrational activists have drowned out the voice of reason on what constitutes a judicious and useful ordinance. Hysteria booming through the halls of the Sandoval County Government Building controlled the conversation. “Tribal consultation hasn’t happened!” (The County has no authority over tribal lands.) “The ordinance is being rammed through at the last minute!” (Sandoval County has considered an ordinance for two years.) “It will destroy our land and water!” (There has never been a documented case of contaminated water due to oil and gas operations in New Mexico.)

Expert testimony from academia and regulators has largely been ignored by the Commission and others. Instead, shouting and outright lies from activists controlled the conversation and the community’s need for an ordinance that supports responsible oil and gas operations remains unmet. The entire process has been a colossal waste of time and taxpayer resources.

The senselessness continues to grow. With no decision following two years of work, the County Commission is allowing an unaccountable, unelected working group of activists, who seem to have little or no appreciation for the value of the oil and gas industry, to draft an ordinance. By allowing this, the Commission is putting Sandoval County at risk of losing valuable revenue and jobs; it needs to take a leadership role and get this process back on track.

Oil and natural gas revenue provides Sandoval County’s public schools with $47 million annually, and generates more than 100,000 jobs in New Mexico. Empowering politically motivated activists puts future funding for our schools at risk and limits job opportunities in Sandoval County. The County may also be forced to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on attorneys to defend an indefensible ordinance drafted by activists.

Shouldn’t taxpayer dollars be spent on improving roads, highways, and public safety in the community? The Commission must strike a sensible balance between protecting the community and not harming the state’s most important industry.

Sandoval County is known as a great place to live and work. We have seen unprecedented boldness from its Commission in the past, and need to see that again in regards to oil and gas development. When the time comes for the next decision, will they find the courage to put the community’s interests ahead of political maneuvering? I hope so, Sandoval County deserves it.

The New Mexico Business Coalition (NMBC) is a statewide nonprofit association that works to improve the business environment for companies and the quality of life for all New Mexicans. NMBC’s nonpartisan educational efforts focus on providing New Mexicans the facts about regulation, legislation and elected officials’ decisions affecting them.