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‘Yes’ to health, water, air; ‘no’ to SandRidge

SandRidge Energy Inc. is having a tough time in Oklahoma. Environmental groups are threatening to sue the corporation over links between its wastewater disposal wells and the sudden and massive increase in earthquakes, according to a story posted on The Oklahoman’s website, NewsOK. Until recently, seismic activity in Oklahoma was negligible at best.

Just about to be delisted from the New York Stock Exchange, SandRidge is looking to bring its business to New Mexico and has submitted a proposal to drill oil near Rio Rancho.

World leaders recently convened in Paris at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, where 195 nations signed an agreement to keep the global average temperature from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius. Indeed, the atmosphere is heating up at an alarming rate due to an over-concentration of greenhouse gases that overwhelming scientific consensus says is very likely due to human activity, according to a posting on NASA’s website. To slow it down, I believe we must end our seemingly insatiable quest for extracting and burning fossil fuels, and prioritize programs that help make an immediate shift to renewable energy.

Yet, local authorities in Sandoval County are considering SandRidge’s proposal to extract oil from a residential zone surrounding Albuquerque’s metropolitan area, which could subject us to air and water pollution, health risks and further greenhouse gas emissions.

As an organizer for Food & Water Watch, I know too much about the health and environmental dangers inherent in drilling for oil and gas to condone drilling near my own home in Sandoval County – or anywhere. Commonly used modern extraction techniques – including fracking, which we can expect to be used by SandRidge – are especially concerning.

Fracking destroys millions of gallons of fresh water by mixing it with sand and a combination of chemicals, and blasting this concoction underground to shock oil, or gas, out of rock deposits. On the West Side, such water-wasting methods could deplete our aquifers and potentially contaminate our drinking water.

According to a report, “In Fracking’s Wake: New Rules Are Needed to Protect Our Health and Environment from Contaminated Wastewater,” published by the National Resources Defense Council, there are no available options for dealing with contaminated wastewater from fracking that can adequately protect human health and the environment. Frack Free Tas, a community group trying to have fracking banned in Tasmania, claims there is no safe way to dispose of the waste fluid that results from these processes.

According to the NRDC report, once it is used for fracking, water cannot safely be returned to the water table. It is injected into wells, which are known to leak and contaminate adjacent aquifers. In fact, fracking has already caused extensive pollution to groundwater in New Mexico and throughout the country, according to Environment America Research and Policy Center.

In our state, which is recovering from several years of severe drought, we cannot afford to squander our precious public resource.

Oklahoma had upwards of 720 earthquakes greater than 3.0-magnitude this year. Until 2009, Oklahoma typically had about 50 a year. In fact, Oklahoma now has more earthquakes than California. Several scientific papers tie this dramatic increase in seismicity to higher volumes of produced water injection from oil and gas activity.

Oil and gas drilling and fracking might also harm people’s health, and disrupt rural and urban communities, according to a post on Green Action News. Furthermore, hundreds of roaring trucks must carry millions of gallons of fresh water over roadways, kicking up dust, and causing noise and light pollution to night skies.

Is this what we want for Rio Rancho?

Of course it isn’t: We don’t want out-of-state or any companies robbing New Mexicans of minerals that should stay in the ground. Economic development need not rely on dirty, outdated technologies. Developing truly clean renewable energy will bring clean energy jobs.

Recently, dozens of residents spoke at a Sandoval County Planning and Zoning Commission hearing against approval of the SandRidge application to drill close to the Rio Rancho city limits. The hearing will continue on Jan. 28. For our water, our health, our air and our community, we must fight to keep drilling from coming to Rio Rancho.

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