Local bans on drilling and the practice of hydraulic fracturing are being put to the test in other states. Just this week, a New York mid-level appeals court ruled that municipalities in that state can use local zoning laws to ban fracking and that state mining and drilling laws don't trump the authority of local governments to control land use.
In New Mexico, officials at the federal Bureau of Land Management said the agency is not bound by local ordinances. In general, the agency would consider leasing federal land for development if there was an interest. Environmental assessments would be done, and the public — including county officials — would have a chance to comment and protest if a lease were awarded.
Trambley, the Mora County GOP chairman, is urging people to speak out against the ordinance. He described it as maddening to see sweeping bans being made without accurate information about the economic and environmental effects of drilling.
"In our economic climate, we simply cannot afford to needlessly throw the possibility for jobs down the drain," he said.
Olivas argued that Mora County's water supplies need to be protected, especially during a drought.
The majority of New Mexico's 50,000-plus operating wells were drilling using the fracking process. Fracking uses high-pressure mixtures of water, sand or gravel and chemicals to crack rock formations and release oil and natural gas. Despite industry's assurances about the safety of the process, opponents contend it could cause pollution and deplete water resources.