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Bernalillo halts oil, gas, mining permits

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Nearby sand and gravel operations, and a brief experience with a crude-oil-truck-to-rail-car transfer operation has prompted the town of Bernalillo to put a temporary halt to permits for mining, extraction, and oil and gas production and transportation.

Town councilors this week unanimously approved a moratorium of up to four months on all planning and zoning applications or building permits for those industries within the town’s jurisdiction.

“Mining and oil and gas aren’t typical municipal issues,” Mayor Jack Torres said.

He said the town’s planning and zoning ordinance doesn’t cover mining, extraction or oil and gas activities.

“We need to find out what the issues might be. We need to look at what’s happening in other counties, look at model ordinances and how they address them,” Torres said.

In recent months, the town has had exposure to both oil and gravel mining enterprises.

In May, town officials issued a cease and desist order to a Texas-based company that had started using the mothballed American Gypsum plant’s rail spur to transfer crude oil from trucks to train cars. Town officials said the company never applied for a permit and neighbors of the plant were concerned about possible oil spills.

In addition, just southeast of the U.S. 550/Interstate 25 intersection, Fisher Sand and Gravel is seeking a zone change that would allow it to mine gravel on land under Bernalillo’s jurisdiction.

Torres said representatives from Lafarge have also approached town staff about their gravel operation northeast of the U.S. 550/I-25 intersection in unincorporated Sandoval County.

“My understanding is what they are looking at is having the town annex the land where they are mining,” Torres said. He also said he wants to explore ways that the town could derive revenue from those industries to cover the potential liabilities, and risks to public health and safety.

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