Bernalillo shuts down 'clandestine' oil transport operation

Created: 05/28/2014 10:14 PM
By: Caleb James, KOB Eyewitness News 4

A clandestine operation under the cover of darkness -- neighbors noticed truckload after truckload of something started showing up at a plant along the railroad tracks in Bernalillo.

Neighbors knew something was wrong, and when they reported it, a stand off began.

They are hard to miss -- big, black, tanker cars showed up in the middle of the night one night at the Centex American Gypsum plant.    

It turns out their mission was very secret, and according to Bernalillo's mayor, very illegal.

"This is our home," said Henriatta Montoya. "We love it here."

Six generations of Montoyas have lived in a 200 year old house in Llanito -- a stone's throw north of Bernalillo.

That's why when something is out of place it's pretty hard for Henriatta to miss.

When a string of giant tanker cars showed up on the tracks at the Centex Gypsum plant in the middle of the night May 1. She just knew something was really wrong.

"Thankfully we had neighbors who saw what was going on," said Bernalillo mayor Jack Torres. "Seemed to be a clandestine operation."

Torres says he discovered oil transport company Marlin Midstream conducting loading and unloading operations in the middle of the night at the Centex plant that sits within the town's border. 

"They started operations, didn't come to the town, they didn't even apply for a business license, didn't give us any notice, any conversations," said Torres. 

What they were doing was a zoning violation and the town shut down the operation right away.

But Torres says it could have been much worse.

An accident would have completely blindsided Bernalillo's small force of first responders, and they likely wouldn't have been able to handle it.

"Right away people think, what's going on there?" said Torres. "Why do they not want to follow the rules?"

For Henriatta, the idea of someone not following such important rules is terrifying.

"For a company to come and do something like that to us, and not notify the town, it's unbelievable," she said. 

The oil loading was shut down by the city May 7, a little more than 5 days after it began.

Marlin Midstream hasn't moved their tankers, and they're still sitting on those tracks.

The Houston-based company told KOB Eyewitness News 4 they would send a statement Wednesday answering our questions about the operation, but never sent one.

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