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Fracking Being Challenged on Federal and Local Fronts

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Image:  Mora County is the first county in the U.S. to pass a community rights ordinance to ban drilling and fracking. Image credit: NM Coalition for Community Rights. Graphic Artist: Manuel Michalski
Image: Mora County is the first county in the U.S. to pass a community rights ordinance to ban drilling and fracking.
Image credit: NM Coalition for Community Rights. Graphic Artist: Manuel Michalski
May 21, 2013

MORA COUNTY, N.M. - The controversial process of hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas recovery from deep underground, commonly known as fracking, could soon be getting some federal government oversight. Early this month, the "Frac Act" was introduced in Congress. The bill would require the oil and gas industry to comply with the Clean Water Act in any development.

While New Mexico Representative Ben Ray Luján considers HR 1921 in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, something is happening to fracking in his home district. Community organizer Kathleen Dudley is working with the people of Mora County to stand strong against fracking.

"On April 28th, Mora County Commission passed a community-rights ordinance banning drilling and fracking in the County of Mora," Dudley related. "And the community-rights ordinance is based upon our inalienable rights, our birthright, asserting our right to democracy."

According to Dudley, Mora is the first county in the nation to enact such a ban. But the northern New Mexico community is one of about 150 other jurisdictions that have bans on fracking. She added that the Mora County ordinance includes a bill of rights that asserts rights to clean air, clean water, health, a sustainable energy future and local self-determination.

The work under way to protect Mora County flies in the face of actions taken during the 2013 legislative session, when State Senator Bill Sharer (R-Farmington) effectively killed SB 547, which would have outlawed hydraulic fracturing on horizontal wells in the state. That doesn't faze Dudley.

"As we go county by county, we ultimately get the ground swell to change the state of New Mexico's constitution and write out corporate dominance," she declared. "And then ultimately we take that to the federal level. We're talking about our children's children's children's future."

Dudley characterized her work as part of what could be considered a revolution.

"We're looking at a movement that, when it gels, it's going to be big," she stated. "Because we're not just looking at fracking. We're looking at the corporate takeover of our country, of our world. And the community rights ordinances are about local autonomy, the rights of people who live in their communities to assert their rights."

Dudley said lawyers in five states stand ready to defend the Mora County community-rights ordinance.

The Mora County Community Water Rights and Local Self-Government Ordinance can be seen at bit.ly/16CsHIs.

Renee Blake, Public News Service - NM