The Latest: A New Mexico county is first in the nation to ban fracking


The tiny town of Pavillion, Wyo., sits in the middle of the state's gas patch, and in the midst of the heated national debate over the risks hydraulic fracturing poses to water quality. Residents complained about well water turning brown after drillers fracked nearby gas wells. In 2011, the EPA released a draft report linking the area's groundwater pollution to fracking ("Feds link water contamination to fracking for the first time," HCN, 12/9/11). The findings helped encourage local governments nationwide to try to gain more control over oil and gas development.

In May, Mora County in New Mexico became the first U.S. county to ban fracking. "I don't want to destroy our water," Mora County resident Roger Alcon told the L.A. Times. "You can't drink oil." The cash-poor but federal land-rich county drafted its ordinance with assistance from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund. The BLM also released a second round of public-lands fracking regulations last month, but some environmental groups think they're inadequate.

Robert Welborn
Robert Welborn Subscriber
Jun 25, 2013 06:25 PM
The EPA recently declined to finalize the report addressing the issues in Pavillion. Rather than defend the draft report, with its inconvenient suggestion that fracking could be linked to what where otherwise usable wells in the area, the EPA has rolled over and showed its pink belly. The state of Wyoming will now make the conclusions. This is the state where EnCana gets exemptions from the Oil and Gas Commission to foul our aquifers, a shortsighted practice at best. The same state where legislators were so disturbed by a public art piece that symbolically linked the folly of coal and dead forests that it was surreptitiously removed from our sole university campus. I'm declaring the new state of Wyoming motto, oft cited by these same legislators: "Don't bite the hand that feeds you." I'm sure the state will do a bang-up job taking over the Pavillion report from the EPA. It saddens me that after years of fighting for justice, the folks in Pavillion will get another Wyo-style dog and pony show. The parallels between HCN's excellent and brave feature on drinking water issues in low-income, hispanic California ag communities and the struggles of other folks in oil and gas patches are very striking. Get it off your head, indeed.