Source: The Santa Fe New Mexican, November 24, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com
It is a script destined for a Hollywood movie: A rural, low-income, mostly Hispanic New Mexico county passes a community rights ordinance, bans oil and gas drilling, and is sued by rich, greedy oil and gas barons.
“We’re protecting our water,” say two Mora County commissioners who support the ordinance.
“It’s unconstitutional,” cry the Independent Petroleum Producers of New Mexico and a couple of private property owners who are suing over the ordinance. Their lawsuit was filed Nov. 15 in federal District Court.
People around the U.S. and the world who are deeply concerned about the influence of big corporations and the potential environmental damage from hydraulic fracturing methods — used to tap oil and gas supplies — cheer on Mora County.
But there’s more to this story — nuances and tensions that are hard to uncover unless you were born and raised in this hard-scrabble, beautiful and resilient Northern New Mexico county.
Most Mora County residents oppose oil and gas drilling. But some of them say there were better ways to prevent drilling, strategies that had a better chance of standing up in court. They believe the ban was an ill-advised move that will have high costs for an already cash-strapped county government and will gain it nothing except attention.
Others say the ordinance is an example of an outside Anglo group using a poor, minority county for its own ends.
The more than eight-year legal battle by the county to recover damages associated with the Greene County Courthouse addition/renovation project may be over soon.
A joint meeting of the County Commissioners, County Council and Building Corporation is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Monday to consider a settlement agreement resolving all claims in the county’s civil suit against United Consulting Engineers and others that is pending in Owen Circuit Court.
Before the public meeting, the three governmental bodies will meet in a joint executive session at 3 p.m. where legal advisors will spell out the details of the settlement proposal.
Both meetings will be conducted in the third floor meeting room at the courthouse in Bloomfield.
Acceptance of the settlement offer has to take place by a vote conducted in a public meeting, according to Commissioner’s attorney Marilyn Hartman.
Terms of the agreement won’t be announced until the public meeting, Hartman told the Greene County Daily World.
“We have gotten commitments from all of the other parties to a tentative agreement,” Hartman said in explaining if the local bodies approve the settlement Monday, the case will not go to court.…