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GOP leader criticizes Mora County drilling ban

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 4, 2013 at 7:06 pm •  Published: May 4, 2013

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A decision made this week by the Mora County Commission to adopt an ordinance that prohibits oil and natural gas development is drawing criticism.

Mora County Republican Party Chairman Frank Trambley sees the ordinance as an attack on jobs and the oil and gas industry, which provides the state hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue each year through taxes and royalties.

"It is a dire shame to see such a progressive movement here in our state," Trambley said in a statement. "Without the ability to explore extraction possibilities, Mora County residents are at a sincere disadvantage compared to other areas of the state."

Tens of millions of barrels of oil and gas are produced in New Mexico each year. The hotbeds for development are in the southeastern and northwestern corners of the state, but some Mora County residents are concerned that companies might start to look elsewhere as technology improves.

Right now, there are no leases on federal land within the county's boundaries. There are more than 120 leases on state land, but no active wells.

The State Land Office said the leases that do exist in the sparsely populated county date back to the previous administration and will all be expired in less than 2 years, unless drilling occurs and the resulting wells become commercially productive.

Following through on a campaign promise, Commission Chairman John Olivas said he wanted to take action before drilling came to the county. He said the ordinance is about protecting groundwater and establishing the county's right to make its own decisions about development.

The ordinance states that any permits or licenses issued by the federal or state government that would allow activities that would compromise the county's rights would be considered invalid. It also puts the county's rights ahead of any corporate rights.

Olivas said he's ready for legal challenges that might result.

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