I am grateful for the recommendation made by the Sandoval County Zoning and Planning Commission to deny a zone change for a proposed exploratory oil well by SandRidge Energy.
At the commission’s meeting, I was moved by the multitudinous testimonies of Rio Rancho and Albuquerque citizens who stood against drilling for fossil fuels in general and fracking in particular. Voicing concerns for the health of land, communities and future generations, they said, in effect, “Not in our backyard.”
Yet, I realize the great challenge that such a decision leaves to us. For as long as we are consumers of oil and gas – and I am one – oil wells will exist in somebody’s backyard. A “No” to drilling and fracking here will mean only that somebody else’s land is fractured, somebody else’s water is in danger, somebody else’s air is polluted, so that we might obtain the oil and gas we use. Will we use even more fossil fuels to import the oil we demand?
In all this, it will, invariably, be the poor that suffer most. That is, unless our “No” is accompanied by a “Yes” to a different way of living. Furthermore, with a 6.2 percent state unemployment rate, a “No” to potential job opportunities must be accompanied by a “Yes” to those who are out of work – a commitment to creating jobs and to providing needed services while people are between jobs. Out of sight, out of mind, cannot and must not be our final stance.
As a priest in the Episcopal Church, which has taken small but important steps to divest from fossil fuels, I am thankful for the powerful “No” that resounded from my fellow citizens. Yet, I am aware of the great distance we have to travel together in order that all might have work that respects the earth and pays their bills.