Greens win latest Otero Mesa legal ruling

From New Mexico Business Weekly

Environmentalists have won the latest legal skirmish against the oil and gas industry in the battle over Otero Mesa. The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals invalidated the Bureau of Land Management’s oil and gas drilling plan for Otero Mesa.

The court ruled that the BLM’s original Resource Management Plan Amendment, which opened the vast majority of Otero Mesa to oil and gas leasing and limited protection for the desert grasslands, was flawed because it didn’t consider protecting Otero Mesa and the Salt Basin Aquifer.

The court said the federal agency had to consider an alternative that closed Otero Mesa to oil and gas leasing, admonishing it that “[d]evelopment is a possible use, which BLM must weigh against other possible uses — including conservation, to protect environmental values, which are best assessed through the NEPA process.”

The court went on to write that, “applying the rule of reason, we [the court] agree with the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance that analysis of an alternative closing [of] the Mesa to development is compelled.”

Otero Mesa is located in rural southeastern New Mexico near the Texas border and has been a test case for future oil drilling — pitting environmentalists against the oil and gas industry. Roswell-based wildcatter Heyco has done test drills on Otero Mesa and has assured regulators it can manage the environmental consequences of full scale drilling there. The company has been frustrated by the continuing litigation and is pursuing much of its efforts in Texas.

The state of New Mexico, during the Bill Richardson years, has sided with the green movement in the ongoing battle over Otero Mesa.

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Coalition for Otero Mesa
Phone: (505) 843-8696 | Fax: (505) 843-8697
Email: oteromesa@yahoo.com
Contact us for more information about the Coalition for Otero Mesa, oil & gas development, or the ongoing effort to protect the last wild lands and open spaces in New Mexico.