Thursday, December 13, 2007

Drilling Threat Gives us Wonderful Opportunity

This past Sunday, the New Mexican published an Op-Ed I wrote about the threat of oil and gas exploration arriving in Santa Fe County. In short, I think the threat gives the County government the opportunity to restore the balance of power between the people, the special interests and the corporations in favor of the people.

By passing strong legislation restricting oil and gas operations in the County, the County Commission can show the rest of the United States that it is possible to stand firm and defend the interests of the regular folks the commissioners represent.

The text of the Op-Ed is below, and the link is here: Op-Ed

My View: Drilling Issue Presents Civic Opportunity

To paraphrase Mark Twain: Nothing focuses one's attention quite so much as the prospect that your community and your way of life may be radically disrupted by forces and events that seem beyond your control.

The arrival in Santa Fe County of oil and gas wildcatters has brought such focus to our community, and this attention and energy give us an incredible opportunity. We have the chance to restore the will of the people to its proper place in the debate and to shift the balance of power in favor of our community.

For too long, political debate has ignored the will of the people in favor of the will of special interests. Special interests have sought to take without contributing their fair share and inevitably leave ordinary people and communities shouldering the burden of their activities. Oil and gas exploration in Santa Fe County is a perfect example: Our community will shoulder an enormous burden should exploration and production commence but will reap few, if any, benefits.

The activities of the wildcatters (who arrive first) and the major corporations (who inevitably come later) pose serious threats to our water, our land, and ur air. In return, they offer nothing but empty promises. The revenues generated will be a pittance compared to the economic and social consequences to Santa Fe, and the impact of their operations could last for many generations after they leave.

Our county government has a golden opportunity to show the rest of the country what government can do when it acts in the best interests of the people. Our county can enact a tough ordinance to ensure that we preserve the things that make Santa Fe such a special place to live and raise a family.

By doing that, we will tell industry that it must, for once, bear the true costs of its activities.

Some may fear that industry will bring lawsuits to tear down tough ordinances or to remove safety laws. We should not shirk from the fight and should not be intimidated by such threats. The ground on which the county government stands in defending safety and health ordinances is the strongest ground on which it can ever stand. Attempts to use the courts to defeat protective ordinances may succeed, or they may fail. But we will surely win no matter the outcome because we can never lose when standing to defend ourselves. Compared to the costs of the effects of lightly regulated oils and gas exploration and production, the costs of defending the lawsuits that may come will be insignificant. It is far better to face and defend a lawsuit than to face the destruction of our homes, land and water at the hands of those who do not care about the effects they create, or for the future they leave behind.

I urge the county government to recognize the importance of the days ahead and to seize this important opportunity to stand up for those they represent. In passing an ordinance that contains stronger bonding requirements, stronger set-back requirements, and stronger aquifer protections, our county government will be restoring the balance to the debate and will long be remembered for their courage and foresight.

Brian Egolf is a Santa Fe water lawyer and a candidate for the State House, District 47.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Depleted Uranium and Oil Drilling in Santa Fe

On Thursday, November 15, the Santa Fe County Commission hosted a session at El Dorado Elementary School along with Reps. Peter Wirth and Rhonda King to talk about the arrival of oil and gas prospectors in Santa Fe. The panel members discussed the Surface Owners Protection Act and about the ongoing process to develop a new Oil & Gas Ordinance for Santa Fe County.

The crowd was quite large, and the energy in the room was very encouraging. Clearly, the threat of oil rigs and the associated consequences arriving in Santa Fe has stirred a powerful force among the population of the Galisteo Basin.

(Photo used with the permission of Tony Bonanno)

I spoke about three serious issues raised by the arrival of drilling operations:
  • The risk that fracturing operations will contaminate the Galisteo Basin Aquifer
  • The possibility that depleted uranium will be used to perforate the well bores
  • The fact that the Galisteo Basin (and all the people who live there) is entirely dependent on groundwater. Thus, contamination puts drinking water for thousands of people in serious jeopardy with very little possibility that replacement water can be found.
I want to briefly discuss the perforation process because it's been getting very little attention despite the serious effects it could have in Santa Fe.

Perforation is the phase of production in which high explosives are used to blast through the cemented casing that is put in place after the drilling phase is completed. The casing needs to be perforated so that the oil and gas in the reservoir can flow into the casing and back to the surface. Click HERE for a good overview of the process of drilling a well.

This is what a completed well looks like:
This is what the perforation process looks like:

This is what one type of a "perf gun" looks like:

The principle behind the perforation technology is the use of shaped charges, the same technology used to make IEDs in Iraq. The concept is that a shaped charged turns a hemisphere of metal into a molten projectile that travels into the rock surrounding the well bore to open it up and thereby allow the fracturing fluid to travel into the oil & gas bearing formation.

It works like this:

This is how the charge is put together:

The problem here is that in some applications, the perforation guns use depleted uranium as the metal that penetrates into the formation. You can see patent applications for such devices here:

Application No. 1 (by SCHLUMBERGER), Application No. 2 (by Owen Oil Tools LP). The extent to which depleted uranium is used in the United States is unclear, but the prospect should be taken seriously, and I hope that the County will address this urgent matter in its new ordinance.

Needless to say, the prospect that depleted uranium could be used to open up oil and gas reservoirs in Santa Fe County is a serious concern. This should be a main focus of the County's drafting of its new Oil & Gas ordinance.

I a future post, I will talk about the risk that the fracturing process may create vertical fractures that could contaminate the Galisteo Basin aquifer.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

GA Gov's Drought Solution: Pray for Rain

As you may know, Georgia and large parts of the southeastern portion of our country are undergoing serious drought conditions that have persisted for as long as twenty months in some places. The situation is dire, and this is happening in a region that (unlike the Southwest) is unaccustomed to droughts of this magnitude or duration.

(Photo by the AP)

Today, in an effort to address the problem, Georgia's Governor Sonny Perdue did one of the most absurd things I have ever seen a public official do: he organized an official state-sponsored "Pray for Rain" event at the State Capitol. Here he is praying for rain:

(Photo by the AP)

Now, I have no problem with people praying for rain. I do, however, have a problem with the Governor of a State doing so as if it were a realistic approach to solve the crisis facing his State. The Governor seems to forget that the problem in Georgia is the result of years of bad planning and short-sighted decisions about irrigation and development. Instead of being serious about the problem, he decided to pray. Incredible.

One thing I'm praying for is that our elected officials at the state, county, and city levels start to get serious about the situation we face in New Mexico and begin to talk seriously about conservation on a much bigger scale and about how to grow in a responsible way within our water budget. I learned yesterday that Santa Fe's water supply seems secure until 2040. After that, who knows what will happen. If we do nothing, we'll be in a terrible position.

In spite of the Governor of Georgia's bizarre approach, there are some people in Georgia who are taking a better approach and communicating a message in a great way:(Photo by the AP)

This is a group of Georgia football fans at a recent game promoting conservation. I have no doubt that this will do more than the Governor's efforts.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Living with Wolves & the NM Wilderness Alliance

Last night Kelly & I attended a showing of Living with Wolves sponsored by the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. The film and presentation by Jim and Jamie Dutcher were fantastic and revealed a side of wolves that I'd never seen before.

I've always been interested in efforts to reintroduce wolves throughout the West and believe that reintroduction is very important to restoration of healthy ecosystems. The movie and presentation reinforced this belief, but more importantly it showed how wolves live in small social groups that are far more advanced that I'd previously known.

Most impressive to me was the footage of Jim and Jamie interacting closely with the wolf pack and clearly forming meaningful bonds with them.

I encourage you to check out the film and the Dutchers' work.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Drilling in the Galisteo Basin

Tonight Tecton Energy held a public forum at the Genoveva Chavez Community Center in Santa Fe's South Side. The turnout was amazing, and the crowd was decidedly (and deservedly) anti-drilling.

(Photo by Tony Bonanno)

The issue is whether Tecton should be allowed to commence drilling for oil in the Galisteo Basin south of Santa Fe. Many of the landowners in the affected area do not own the mineral rights beneath their lands, and they are therefore subject to drilling when Tecton leases the mineral rights from the mineral rights owners. Thus, Tecton may be able to enter land without the consent of the surface owner to drill for oil.

The evening consisted of a brief presentation from Tecton and numerous comments from the community.

I spoke about the deep concerns I have regarding the inability of Tecton to ensure that they will not irreversibly damage the aquifer in the area. To me, the issue is about whether my kids will be growing up in a community that is safe, clean, and sustainable. I am also deeply concerned by the inability of Tecton to address serious questions regarding the source of the water they will need to operate and the inability of Tecton to ensure the community that the effects of their operations will be mitigated in the short-term and eliminated in the long-term.

Right now there are many more questions unanswered than answered. One this is for sure, however: this is not a good development for the Santa Fe area, and the community needs to continue to be mobilized to protect our land and water.

More photographs can be found here: PHOTOS.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

New Mexico Environmental Law Center Anniversary

Tonight the New Mexico Environmental Law Center celebrated its twentieth anniversary. It's a wonderful organization, and Kelly and I were happy to attend the festivities.

The Center provides legal services to communities throughout New Mexico that cannot afford representation on their own and that are facing serious environmental threats. It has been an amazing advocate for two decades in preventing the construction of new incinerators in New Mexico and has been a leading defender of clean water in New Mexico.

For a big part of 2007, Kelly had the Center as a client of her consulting business. She helped the Center improve its fundraising capacity and reach into the community.

If you have a moment to visit the Center’s site, I encourage you to.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Fiesta Parade

A few weeks ago I walked with supporters in the annual Santa Fe Fiesta Parade. It was a great day, and I met many Santa Feans along the way.
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Welcome to our campaign blog

Welcome! This is the official blog of Brian Egolf's campaign for the New Mexico House of Representatives -- District 47.

I'm running for the legislature because I want my children -- and all the children of New Mexico -- to be able to raise their families in New Mexico. Over the next eight months, I will be running an inclusive campaign to bring Santa Fe together around a progressive agenda. Together we can find a sustainable way to live in our community, and I hope that you'll be a part of the effort.

I hope that you'll find this a great way to follow the progress of my campaign, and I look forward to hearing from you.

-- Brian