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State funds, drilling for gas and oil linked in New Mexico plan

By Bob Downing Published: February 19, 2013

From the Associated Press:

New Mexico legislators want to link approval of state funding to their willingness to allow mineral extraction such as drilling for gas and oil.

A letter making the request was sent to Gov. Susana Martinez on Feb. 6. It was signed by 30 Republican members of the 70-member House of Representatives, the Las Vegas Optic reported Thursday.

Martinez will not cut projects based on a community's oil and gas development policy, spokesman Enrique Knell said Friday. The governor wants to ensure state funding for local projects will result in short- and long-term economic development benefits, he said.

"This simply means that we should prioritize projects that have been vetted and can be fully funded, particularly those that have strong regional or state-wide importance," he said.

The letter came as environmentalists and others are pressuring local governments to restrict drilling. Meanwhile, industry supporters are urging officials to allow extraction while citing potential tax revenue and jobs created.

The letter said the unwillingness of communities to allow drilling reduces state tax collections that pay for capital projects.

"While it is certainly a local government's prerogative to enact such restrictions, it limits the amount of taxes on natural resources and available capital outlay funds," the letter said.

It urged Martinez to "give careful consideration to capital outlay projects located in those counties or municipalities that have voluntarily restricted the extractive industries."

One of the signers is Hobbs Republican Donald Bratton, the House Republican leader. He told the Optic he didn't know who drafted the letter but said it reflected his views.

Wally Drangmeister, a spokesman for the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, said the group did not draft the letter.

Las Vegas environmental activist Pat Leahan said the letter sounds like "veiled blackmail" to try to undermine counties' efforts to protect the health, safety and well-being of residents.

Las Vegas and San Miguel County, which includes Las Vegas, have had moratoriums on oil and gas exploration activities.

The county is working on an oil and gas drilling ordinance, while the Las Vegas City Council has already approved an anti-drilling ordinance. However, the status of the city ordinance is unclear because Mayor Alfonso Ortiz has refused to sign it.

Nicholas Leger, chairman of the San Miguel County Commission, said the letter concerned him, but he didn't think it would affect the county's efforts to develop an ordinance.

"We're going to do what we think is best for San Miguel County as a whole in adopting an ordinance," Leger said.

Las Vegas City Manager Timothy Dodge said he wasn't concerned about the letter because Martinez has been reasonable in discussions.

"We're anti-pollution of our most valuable resource, which is water," Dodge said. "Anybody with any common sense and even the Republican representatives who signed off on this letter, I think, could understand that the city has to do due diligence in making sure that we are good stewards of our water resource."

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Utica and Marcellus shale web sites

Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management State agency Web site.

ODNR Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management. State drilling permits. List is updated weekly.

ODNR Division of Geological Survey.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Ohio State University Extension.

Ohio Farm Bureau.

Ohio Oil and Gas Association, a Granville-based group that represents 1,500 Ohio energy-related companies.

Ohio Oil & Gas Energy Education Program.

Energy In Depth, a trade group.

Marcellus and Utica Shale Resource Center by Ohio law firm Bricker & Eckler.

Utica Shale, a compilation of Utica shale activities.

Landman Report Card, a site that looks at companies involved in gas and oil leases.FracFocus, a compilation of chemicals used in fracking individual wells as reported voluntarily by some drillers.

Chesapeake Energy Corp,the Oklahoma-based firm is the No. 1 driller in Ohio.

Rig Count Interactive Map by Baker Hughes, an energy services company.

Shale Sheet Fracking, a Youngstown Vindicator blog.

National Geographic's The Great Shale Rush.

The Ohio Environmental Council, a statewide eco-group based in Columbus.

Buckeye Forest Council.

Earthjustice, a national eco-group.

Stop Fracking Ohio.

People's Oil and Gas Collaborative-Ohio, a grass-roots group in Northeast Ohio.

Concerned Citizens of Medina County, a grass-roots group.

No Frack Ohio, a Columbus-based grass-roots group.

Fracking: Gas Drilling's Environmental Threat by ProPublica, an online journalism site.

Penn State Marcellus Center.

Pipeline, blog from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Marcellus shale drilling.

Allegheny Front, environmental public radio for Western Pennsylvania.