by Alan Lackey, Candidate for HD 88, Stevensville
In a letter to the editor on May 11, 2022 titled “Support for Rusk”, Ron Wirth, in his zeal to discredit me, left out a very key point in his summary of an interview I did back in 2004; the truth.
Mr. Wirth manipulated what the article said to make it sound like I supported John Kerry for his views on gun control. The article, if you read it yourself, is talking about Bush and Kerry both supporting the assault weapon ban, not me.
In the Late 90’s, a new type of energy development moved into the area of New Mexico where I lived; coal-bed methane gas. As a businessman in an area where the economy was tied to coal mining, that had recently ceased for good, I welcomed the gas development to provide an economic stimulus to a depressed area. Earlier in my career, I had managed ranches in Texas with a significant amount of oil and gas activity. My main duty was to oversee the agricultural operations but I also acted as a liaison for the owners with the oil companies. I worked with oil companies to help mitigate environmental damage, which they were very cooperative in doing. The main emphasis of coarse, was protecting ground water. The oil companies were diligent in sealing off underground water bearing stratum to protect it from contamination with oil or brine water. I assumed the process around my home would be similar.
As time went on I witnessed that with this new type of development, the under ground aquifers were an impediment to production of the gas and had to be disposed of. After injecting many chemicals like diesel fuel into the ground at extremely high pressure, all the associated water within the site is pumped away to allow the gas to flow and then disposed of in deep injection wells making it unavailable for use for ever. Most private property owners in the region did not own the minerals rights and found their homes in the middle of an industrial gas field. Hundreds of families lost their wells, either by contamination or by depletion. There was nothing to say about what was going on on private land. However, I thought that there ought to be a different way to extract the gas that does not destroy a critical finite resource like fresh water in an arid land. In addition, the entire landscape is industrialized with 8 wells per section and it becomes a spiderweb network over hundreds of thousands of acres of pipeline corridors, service roads, well pads and power lines.
Within the 2.2 million acre Raton Basin, which was entirely open for development, there is an area of Forest Service land that is a critical water shed and a unique wildlife resource. This 106,000 acre area is called the Valle Vidal Unit of the Carson National Forest. I had cowboyed in the lush alpine meadows and shady aspen groves as a younger man. Then years later, after it was acquired by the Forest Service, the Valle Vidal is where I had my elk hunting camps. There was coal-bed methane development on adjacent properties, so I enquired with the forest supervisor if there was interest in leasing the Valle Vidal for gas development. The supervisor told me “yes, it was a done deal and there was nothing I could about it.”
This is where I ran head on into President Bush’s energy policy. It turned out that the company that applied for the lease was a big donor to the Bush campaign. The president’s energy task force (Dick Cheney) was paying them back at the public’s expense. This was a pet project being expedited behind the scenes. I felt it was public land and the public should have a say. This incredible resource was in the cross hairs of being turned into a single use gas field, compromising the current multiple uses of fishing, hunting, ranching, timber harvesting and recreation, all for 30 hours worth of gas. In my mind, leaving 106,000 acres intact out of 2.2 million acres is not being unreasonable.
I learned a lot about the Bush and Cheney administration, and in no way could I support them with my vote again. In my frustration, I considered a vote for Kerry, and stated so in the article, however; I did not mark a vote for president that election.
My disappointment expressed in the article for the NRA at the time, was due to the fact that they blindly supported the energy policies of the the Bush administration and had not considered the negative impact they had on wild lands, wildlife, and hunters. When I presented the facts to the leadership of the NRA, they changed their policy and supported my efforts. The NRA was instrumental in helping me push through legislation to protect this area for future generations. I currently am and will always be a member of the NRA.
I was able to achieve bipartisan support from both the Republican and Democrat New Mexico US Senators and both the Democrat and Republican New Mexico US House members.
For four years I was at the same table with people I thought I would never be in the same room with, trying to protect this resource. However, as divided as we are as a a nation there are still many things most of us have in common. A desire for a source of clean water or a natural setting to take the grandson for an elk hunt might be two of them. Wise use of resources is paramount.
Back to Mr. Wirth. You really should know the facts before you put yourself out there. Come to think of it though, this day and age, I guess facts just don’t matter, i.e., take a look at the mainstream media. There is a demand for your journalistic skills. The Department of Homeland Security just started their Disinformation Bureau. You’d fit in quite well there.