New Mexico land commissioner issues oil and gas moratorium on new drilling

[anvplayer video=”5179638″ station=”998122″]

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard signed a moratorium preventing new leases for oil and gas drilling operations within one mile of schools, daycares, or other education facilities. 

Garcia Richard says it will protect the health of kids.

“It’s my deep honor and privilege to be able to make this commitment to the students of New Mexico today. That their health, and their access to clean air and water is a right that we should be protecting with our policies,” said Garcia Richard. 

The commissioner decided to take action after receiving letters from community members in the Four Corners, and the southeastern part of the state, expressing concerns about pollution near schools. 

She also received letters from environmental advocacy groups — the Center for Biological Diversity and Citizens Caring for the Future.

“We wrote and included maps in these letters showing how the elementary school out on the greater Chaco landscape, the Lybrook school, is actually surrounded by fracking sites. And showing how schools down in Carlsbad, Loving, and Hobbs literally have hundreds of fracking sites all around them,” said Gail Evans with the Center for Biological Diversity. 

Garcia Richard says after getting those letters she had the land office do its own review.  They estimate 119 schools statewide are within a mile of oil and gas wells on state lands. 

Many of them are near multiple wells — such as Jefferson Elementary in Hobbs. 

“It’s really quite unimaginable when you see it in person,” said Kayley Shoup with the Citizens Caring for the Future. 

The executive order signed Thursday only applies to new oil and gas wells. 

Garcia Richard says her office will conduct a review of existing leases within a mile of schools to assure they are in compliance with their lease requirements and applicable laws. 

The moratorium will stay in place until further notice.