from the NEW MEXICO NEWS CONNECTION - A statewide news service for New Mexico
Alamogordo, NM - Last week, the federal government approved a permit application from a Roswell company to drill an exploratory natural gas well in the Otero Mesa in Southern New Mexico. Citizens and conservation groups are expressing their disappointment because Otero Mesa is still on the table for oil and gas drilling. They're concerned about the impact on the Southwest's last remaining Chihuahuan Desert grassland, its wildlife, and water resources. Last week, the federal government approved a permit for drilling an exploratory natural gas well on Otero Mesa in Southern New Mexico. Kevin Bixby with the Southwest Environmental Center in Las Cruces says the permanent impacts of drilling on the area aren't worth the relatively small amount of gas to be had, according to the BLM's own estimates. According to Kevein, "The best estimate I've heard is that the natural gas beneath Otero Mesa is the equivalent of about two weeks of what we burn through in the United States."
The BLM says the permit for the well includes adequate restrictions to protect wildlife and groundwater. But Bixby says granting the permit flies in the face of a state-supported proposal to add extra environmental protections to large portions of Otero Mesa. A case between the state and the BLM over the proposal is currently awaiting a decision in a Denver appeals court. Bixby says when it comes to safeguarding water and natural resources, it's tough to justify the risk of drilling, "You know, there's always their record from the past that we have to look at it. You know, really, water will be the more valuable resource in the future, not natural gas." To underscore this point the cities of Las Cruces and El Paso, Texas recently passed resolutions calling for the protection of the Mesa.
Visit the Southwest Environmental Center at http://www.wildmesquite.org/