Opinion: Do environmental activists want real results or just political pandering?

Carla J. Sonntag
New Mexico Business Coalition
Carla Sonntag, president of New Mexico Business Coalition, pictured in a San Juan County Commission meeting in Aug. 2018, is going to be presenting on Right to Work at the Farmington City Council meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018.

Political activism and opportunism is alive and well with former and current public officials trying to curry favor and build up campaign coffers on issues they don’t understand. Those of us who want a brighter future for New Mexico have to stand up and be the adults in the room.

Hilcorp Energy recently applied for a change to what is called a “pool rule.” There are pool rules all over the state where below ground oil and gas pockets exist. These rules are routinely updated to account for technological advances and our growing understanding of geology. Hilcorp would like to tap the full potential of the Blanco Mesaverde pool, an expansive pool that exists thousands of feet below the surface in northwest New Mexico. 

Hilcorp brought forward data and studies that prove they can take existing wells currently drawing from other pools and, without drilling a new well, tap into the Blanco Mesaverde pool. The only problem is that the allowable well density of this pool lags behind the density of other pools in the San Juan Basin. In order to use an existing well on another pool, Hilcorp would exceed the allowable wells for the Blanco Mesaverde pool.  They have received permission to do so on almost 70 other occasions. 

It is telling that no one protested then. Why would they? Elections weren’t as close. 

Protesters and political opportunists want you to think Hilcorp is requesting to drill thousands of new wells, make our air unbreathable, and otherwise bring about the apocalypse. In reality, the environmental groups are opposing responsible policies that accomplish everything they claim to support; they are opposing strategies that reduce the number of new wells needed in the region. 

Think about that. These groups are opposing a request that would allow an operator to use existing infrastructure and reduce the need for new pads and new wells. Why? Because the only answer that is palatable to them, despite their rhetoric, is for all oil and gas development to end in New Mexico.

If you listened to the activists who testified at the hearing, you would think the fate of humankind was being decided. The foot soldiers of the “keep it in the grounders” said that oil and gas does nothing for the state of New Mexico or its citizens. 

Nothing? Let’s get the facts straight. 

When the next Governor takes the reins of this state, they will have over 30% reserves because of oil and gas operations. We can also thank oil and gas for the roads, street lights, education dollars, Medicaid, and our police officers. Over a third of the state’s budget is paid for by oil and gas. 

Consider for a moment the challenges of the northwest corner of our state. Not satisfied with the closure of the PNM facility and coal plant, radical activists seem too eager to strike another, fatal blow to that community. Sierra Club, San Juan Citizens Alliance, New Energy Economy and others funded with out-of-state money are all too eager to destroy the economic driver in northwest New Mexico.

The “leaders” who are fueling flames and crying crocodile tears ought to know better. The truth may not be as exciting as the stories these activists tell, but facts are important and the only way we’re going to move New Mexico forward.

Carla J. Sonntag is the President and Founder of the New Mexico Business Coalition, the state affiliate for the National Association of Manufacturing.