If you haven’t already heard, SandRidge Energy which had applied for a permit to drill in Sandoval County, has pulled its application. Certainly, low oil and gas prices may be an issue, but so was strident and vocal opposition.
As I wrote in an opinion piece published awhile back in the Rio Rancho Observer, “it’s not like New Mexico can afford to simply kick investors out. We have the nation’s highest unemployment rate. The state budget is flat due largely to the decline in oil and gas prices. And, in recent years, despite the self-evident beauty of our state and its great weather, New Mexico has seen more people — especially young ones — leaving than are coming in.”
Recently, investors looking to do business in New Mexico, bringing jobs and economic development to our state, received a harsh lesson in NIMBY (Not in my backyard) politics.
Unfortunately, while we’ve come to expect anti-oil and gas hysteria in places like Mora and Santa Fe counties, relatively conservative Rio Rancho and Sandoval County are apparently not immune.
I’m referring, of course, to SandRidge Energy’s plans to drill an exploratory well in the county on privately-owned land west of Rio Rancho. The NIMBY crowd was out in full-force with one man saying he “only” lives eight miles from the proposed site and that it was simply too close.
Yes, oil prices are down right now. And, SandRidge Energy will probably give the mob what it wants and walk away from the project.
But oil prices will rise again in the future. Whether any other investors will want to deal with the emotional and misinformed NIMBY activists who apparently dominate Sandoval County’s politics is another question.
Perhaps if these people ever got out to Farmington or Carlsbad, they would see that oil and gas wells operate discreetly all over urbanized areas. Pump jacks quietly operate in parking lots and next to golf courses on a daily basis with few problems or complaints.
The worst thing about the NIMBY crowd is their hypocrisy. They live in a state where 31 percent of the budget comes from oil and gas. They drive their oil-fueled car on blacktop made with petroleum products (and maintained with a healthy dose of oil- and gas-derived tax revenue) and take their kids to schools that are largely funded by the oil and gas industries.
As long as oil and gas production is done somewhere else, they are perfectly happy to reap the rewards.
Of course, it’s not like New Mexico can afford to simply kick investors out. We have the nation’s highest unemployment rate. The state budget is flat due largely to the decline in oil and gas prices. And, in recent years, despite the self-evident beauty of our state and its great weather, New Mexico has seen more people — especially young ones — leaving than are coming in.
This may not be of concern to the relatively affluent and politically active NIMBY crowd, but a lot of people could be helped by this project.
That’s not to say that every proposed oil and gas project should be approved. After dispassionate discussion and real research, perhaps SandRidge would have been denied on its merits. But that is not what is happening. There is no acknowledgment by hysterical activists of the Obama EPA’s repeated findings of the safety of “fracking” relative to drinking water.
There’s also no discussion of the fact that the process has been commonly used to extract oil and gas since the 1940s. It’s all emotion.
In places like Farmington, Hobbs and Carlsbad, oil and gas are part of everyday life. Often it is what puts dinner on the table for middle class families. Sandoval County doesn’t have that history. Ignorance and hysteria fill the void.
Unfortunately, mindless opposition to private sector investment is a common trait in New Mexico. It is a leading cause of our systemic poverty.
Paul Gessing is president of the Rio Grande Foundation, an independent, nonpartisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated to promoting liberty, opportunity and prosperity for New Mexico.