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FARMINGTON —The state's Oil Conservation Commission has approved Hilcorp Energy Company’s application to increase the number of active wells that can draw oil or gas from the Blanco-Mesaverde pool.

The special hearing started at 9 a.m. Monday in Santa Fe and did not conclude until after 5 p.m.

“We are pleased that the Commission made a sound decision based on the facts and evidence,” Hilcorp spokesman Justin Furnace said in an email Monday night. “With this, we are excited to get to work on plan that will see many older wells made new by investment and hard work in a way that will bring significant benefits to the San Juan Basin and the state of New Mexico.”

RELATED: Oil Conservation Commission hears arguments in well-density case

The decision will allow any operator in San Juan or Rio Arriba counties to apply for permits to have up to eight wells in a 320-acre unit, or one well every 40 acres. The previous rule limited that number to four wells in a 320-acre unit, or one well every 80 acres.

Hilcorp plans to use the new pool rule to speed up the process for recompleting wells within the San Juan Basin. Recompleting is the process of taking an existing well and reconfiguring it so it pulls from a different oil and gas pool.

A public comment period stretched for more than an hour and opponents used the opportunity to speak out against the rule change, which they say could have serious environmental consequences.

RELATED: Well density rule goes before Oil Conservation Commission Monday

A livestream video of the public comment period and the subsequent decision was broadcast on the Frack of Greater Chaco Facebook page.

Daniel Tso, who was recently elected to serve as a Navajo Nation Council Delegate representing chapters in southeast San Juan County, was one of the commenters. He had previously been one of about 10 elected officials requesting the hearing be postponed.

“We have elected congressional folks asking for a continuance,” Tso said during his comments. “But that falls on deaf ears.”

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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