Wednesday, January 21, 2015

New Mexico district judge overturns rural county's ban on oil and gas drilling

A federal judge ruled on Monday that an oil and gas drilling ban adopted by a rural northeastern New Mexico county is unconstitutional and invalid, Staci Matlock reports for The New Mexican in Santa Fe. Mora County commissioners voted in April 2013 to ban fracking in the county of 4,500 people. The oil and gas industry—and some landowners who wanted to lease drilling rights—filed a lawsuit in November 2013.

U.S. District Judge James O. Browning said Mora County's "ordinance violated the First Amendment by 'chilling' protected activities by corporations," Matlock writes. "He also found the ordinance violates state law and that the county lacks the authority to enforce it on state land."

"The ordinance grew out of concerns for protecting land and water after oil and gas companies in recent years leased mineral rights for more than 30,000 acres in Mora County," Matlock writes. "Neighboring San Miguel County has approved land use regulations similar to rules adopted a few years ago by Santa Fe County that restrict oil and gas development but don’t ban it. And Mora County commissioners had been working to create restrictive oil and gas regulations similar to Santa Fe County’s when a group began pushing for an outright ban in Mora County." (Read more)

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