Revisiting Strategies, Fracking, and Political Will

By: Bill Whaley
8 February, 2018

Editor’s Note: The article below from the link provided by La Jicarita and written by Paula Garcia, Chairwoman of the Mora County Commission, summarizes the “Drilling Mora County” controversy. In effect local governments and citizens need to decide how a county or local government can determine the best strategy for defending the community against fracking. Garcia argues that local land use regulations have the best chance of succeeding. The film below by David Cortez narrates the failed tactics of the “legal” strategy.

Regardless, a community needs both a strategy and the political will to stand together. When the Taos Regional Water Plan was formed at the request of the state, a board designed to protect and preserve water rights from transfers out of the county or between watersheds, the Public Welfare Advisory Committee was created to make recommendations by citizens.

The Abeyta signatories perceived activist County officials as a threat and fought against it. Subsequent Commissioners also distanced themselves from the Committee’s recommendations. Although the County ultimately filed objections to the transfer of “Top of the World” water rights, the horses had long left the barn.

So the fracking controversy from a political perspective offers a lesson in grass roots protest v. top-down progressive politics. Read Garcia, Watch the Cortez Film.

A Retrospective on the Mora County Fracking Ban*

by lajicarita

Fracker Alert

Thursday, Feb. 8, the Harwood will screen “Drilling Mora County,” an anti-fracking documentary by auteur David Cortez (a former student of mine at UNM). When I saw a screening of the rough-cut, I was pleasantly surprised by Cortez’s gritty devotion to the form and tenacious grip on the completing the project despite the usual setbacks. At the same time, the political minefield involved in the ban has stimulated a row among the critics and resulted in the defeat of Mora commissioners who advocated the ban.

Basically, the controversy, as I understand it revolved around the question of using local Land Use Regulations versus a controversial legal procedure as well as criticism of outsiders, who were exploiting Mora for reasons of self-aggrandizement while ignoring the concerns of residents. Regardless, given the “Chaco” Controversy and potential for disturbances in the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument, “Drilling Mora County” should be a timely addition to he conversation.

The Mora controversy also reminds me of local issues like the KCEC promotion of Broadband and Solar, a progressive transformation with which most of us agree. However, those of us who have followed KCEC mismanagement and understand the Coop’s slippery slide into debt, understand that the hopes and dreams of “progressives” are sometimes borne on the backs of those Coop members, who can least afford new technologies as their electricity rates rise. Similarly, we in the community who hope the Abeyta-Taos Pueblo Water Settlement will achieve its goals have called for a transparent public process in order to reassure those affected.

At a recent forum, Councilor Fritz Hahn, either due to ignorance or deception denied the problem of “public access to Abeyta hearings” existed. But then he may not agree that the earth goes round the sun or like the Mayor, shops at the Dollar Store, despite reports of toxic production and the poison perpetrated on the community by corporate exploitation.

The great gap in realpolitik that affects local debate concerns the lack of knowledge by local officials and voters, who are unfamiliar with the issues because there is no news about the news. Rather the local news is about the culture industry and kitsch (the denial of shit, as Milan Kundera called it).

But that’s just me.