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Public impeachment hearings in Washington; dreamers protest in Texas; roadless wilderness areas possibly at risk around the country; and an ozone indicating garden, at the North Carolina Governor's Mansion.

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Supreme Court hears DACA arguments, and likely will side with the Trump administration, but doesn't take up a gun manufacturer's appeal. Former SC Gov. Mark Sanford drops out of presidential race; and former President Jimmy Carter recovers from brain surgery.

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Otero Permit Approved; Cities, Conservationists Want Mesa "Off the Table"

September 30, 2008

Alamogordo, NM - Conservation and citizens' groups say they're disappointed that the Otero Mesa in Southern New Mexico is still being considered for oil and gas drilling. Last week, the federal government approved a permit for drilling an exploratory natural gas well on the Mesa.

Opponents of drilling are concerned about the impact they believe it will have on the Southwest's last remaining Chihuahuan Desert grassland, including its wildlife and water resources. Kevin Bixby, executive director of the Southwest Environmental Center in Las Cruces, says the permanent impacts of drilling on the area aren't worth the relatively small amount of gas which, according to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) own estimates, is to be had there.

"The best estimate I've heard is that the natural gas beneath Otero Mesa is the equivalent of about two weeks of what we burn through in the United States."

The BLM says the permit for the well, requested by HEYCO of Roswell, New Mexico, includes adequate restrictions to protect wildlife and groundwater. However, Bixby feels granting the permit in the first place flies in the face of a state-supported proposal to add extra environmental protections to large portions of Otero Mesa. Legal action between the state and the BLM over the proposal is awaiting a decision in a Denver appeals court.

In the meantime, Bixby says, when it comes to safeguarding water and natural resources, it's tough to justify the risk of drilling.

"You know, there's always their record from the past that we have to look at. Really, water will be the more valuable resource in the future, not natural gas."

The cities of Las Cruces and El Paso, Texas recently passed resolutions calling for the protection of the Mesa.

Eric Mack/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - NM