FARMINGTON — Discussions in Rio Arriba County of a possible hydraulic fracturing ban have been sidelined after industry representatives lobbied against the idea.
The commission did not discuss fracturing at a meeting Thursday although a resident did raise the issue in public comments and a public hearing scheduled for March 28 to discuss a proposed oil and gas ordinance has been canceled.
Steve Henke, president of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, said he had discussions with county commissioners and staff, along with representatives of ConocoPhillips and Energen.
"Our commitment is to work cooperatively to provide accurate information, not only to the commission, but to the community, and work to address those concerns in a balanced way that works for everybody," Henke said.
Bans on hydraulic fracturing have popped up from New York to Colorado due to fear of the drilling processes' possible environmental effects. Industry groups have fiercely opposed the bans, saying they're unnecessary and create a patchwork of regulations across the country.
A statewide ban proposed in the recent legislative session by a Las Cruces lawmaker was killed in committee.
Local government and industry officials say they've never seen an example of hydraulic fracturing contaminating water supplies in the San Juan Basin. The process is common in the basin, where nearly all wells are fractured.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is conducting a major national study of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. The process involves injecting large volumes of water, sand and chemicals underground to break apart rock and release oil and gas.
Fracking is especially critical to horizontal drilling, a technique being used to explore the basin's Mancos Shale layer for oil.
Oil and gas representatives appear to have helped kill any move toward a fracking ban in Rio Arriba County. The county is no longer actively considering a ban, Henke said.
"My members are concerned about it, and NMOGA is active on their behalf," he said.
County commissioners did not return a message Friday seeking comment.
Rio Arriba County is directly east of San Juan County. The county has been home to drilling for decades and has thousands of wells. Drilling there has focused in historically produced areas near Gubernador, Rosa, Lindrith and Largo Canyon, Henke said.
Some exploratory drilling is taking place near Cebolla.
Chuck Slothower may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4638. Follow him on Twitter @DTChuck.