Drilling Deep

By Tristan Clum

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In this KUNM series, reporter Laura Paskus explores natural gas drilling and the burgeoning oil industry in northwestern New Mexico--its benefits, impacts, and future. Funding provided by the New Venture Fund.

Episode Date
Remember That Huge Methane Plume?
In 2014, NASA announced they’d found that the largest plume of methane gas in North America was right here in New Mexico. At the time, scientists didn’t know exactly where the methane was coming from – but now they’ve completed some research and published their findings .
Aug 24, 2016
Gas Flaring Does More Than Light Up the Skies
Away from any cities or streetlights, the nights here at Chaco Culture National Historic Park are dark. Looking up, it takes a little longer than usual to spot even the most familiar constellations. That’s because there are so many more stars visible across Orion’s shoulders or surrounding Gemini’s twins.
Sep 12, 2015
Enviro Group Says Methane Rules Could Curb Smog
The Obama Administration recently proposed new standards that would reduce methane emissions from natural gas operations across the country, and environmental advocates say the new rules could have some health benefits for people living near gas wells.
Aug 19, 2015
Drilling Opponents Want BLM To Consider Cumulative Effects
There used to be big talk about a big boom coming to the San Juan Basin. Industry thought they’d sink 20,000 new oil wells. Companies wanted to take advantage of oil deposits squeezed into tiny fissures in tight shale deep underground.
Jul 01, 2015
Oil And Gas Technology Drives Farmington Economy
Thanks to technologies like hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, New Mexico is one of the top natural gas producers in the world – 27 th according to the latest annual numbers from 2012 just released by the American Petroleum Institute. But there’s more to the economics of drilling than just counting rigs and tallying profits. Heading into Farmington, New Mexico, the highway is packed with tanker trucks and muddy pickups with fluttery orange flags. It also offers a roadside lesson in the jobs oil and gas brings: Air and swabbing services, oil tools, and trucking and well service companies. Then there are the indirect jobs. For almost two decades, John Silva has owned Three Rivers Eatery and Brewhouse. With 65 employees, he’s downtown’s largest employer. Farmington’s a blue collar town, Silva says. Mining and drilling are important. “It's a love-hate thing,” he says “We want to help the environment, but it is also a major player in our economy.” Earlier this year, companies
Jun 08, 2015
The Hunt For The Source Of Four Corners Methane
Scientists published a paper on methane levels across the globe last year—and their satellite images show the largest methane anomaly in the United States hovers over northwestern New Mexico. Now, some of the nation’s top scientists have come here to figure out where all that methane’s coming from. The satellite image of the methane plume splashed across the national and international news last fall. And it’s easy to see why: the Four Corners shows up as an ugly welt of yellow, red and orange surrounded by cool greens and blues. But Eric Kort , the lead author on the methane paper , said you have to be careful interpreting that image. “It's easy to look at that image and think that it means that the most emissions are coming from this region,” he said. “But it's not an image of emissions, it's an image of concentrations of the gas. It does not at all mean that it’s the highest emissions region. Those are different things.” Kort was in Farmington last week to explain the findings to
Apr 24, 2015
Pipeline Plan Ignites Controversy
UPDATE 2/12: All told, the BLM ended up receiving about 30,000 comments on the proposed Piñon Pipeline. That's according to Victoria Barr of the BLM's Farmington Field Office who discussed oil and gas development in northwestern New Mexico on the KUNM Call In Show . +++ For some eight decades, companies have drilled for natural gas in the San Juan Basin. There are thousands of miles of gas pipelines networked across northwestern New Mexico, but plans to transport crude oil out of the same area are raising serious questions—about pipelines, but also about new development in the San Juan Basin. If you’ve tried to pull onto U.S. Highway 550 near Counselor or Lybrook , New Mexico, in the past few months, you’ve probably had to wait a while. There are more than 50 new oil wells in this immediate area. When they’re first being drilled, each requires a lot of workers—and trucks. Then, once the oil starts flowing, the product is loaded into semi-trucks that rumble down the narrow dirt roads
Feb 11, 2015
Oil Industry Creeps Up On Chaco Communities
KUNM Call In Show 2/12 8a: Oil and gas development may be moving closer to Chaco Canyon National Historical Park and the many tribal communities in northwestern New Mexico. R esidents there, along with archaeologists and advocates, are questioning the burgeoning development. What effect might encroachment have upon these communities? What about nearby ancient sites? How can we strike a balance between modern day energy needs, healthy communities and the preservation of ancient sites? We want to hear from you! Email callinshow@kunm.org, post your comments online or call in live during the show. Guests: Victoria Barr, Farmington District Manager, Bureau of Land Management Lori Goodman, Diné CARE Eric Schlenker-Goodrich, Executive Director, Western Environmental Law Center Related Links: BLM’s overview, including maps, for Pinon Pipeline BLM’s Farmington Resourcement Plan Amendment BLM’s Reasonable Foreseeable Development for NW New Mexico Funding for KUNM’s new series Drilling Deep -
Feb 09, 2015
Voices from Drilling Deep: Etta Arviso
Etta Arviso is one of the Diné – or, Navajo – women who I met last year in Counselor, New Mexico. She is an “allottee ,” which means her family lives on land adjacent to the Navajo reservation that is held in trust by the United States government. In this audio clip, she introduces herself, talks about the history of her homeland and people, and voices her opposition to increased oil and gas development on the checkerboard lands of the eastern Navajo Nation. When Arviso mentions the Long Walk, she’s speaking of the forced removal of Navajo people from Arizona and northwestern New Mexico in the nineteenth century. In 1864, the US Army marched almost 9,000 Navajo men, women, and children to the Bosque Redondo Reservation on Fort Sumner in eastern New Mexico. In 1868, the Navajo Nation and the US government signed a treaty allowing the people to begin their “long walk” home.
Jan 26, 2015
Voices From Drilling Deep: Mark Martinez
In October, Pueblo of Zuni Councilman Mark Martinez and I viewed Chaco Canyon National Historical Park from above during an ecoFlight tour. Martinez was interested in flying above the park to see the remains of ancient buildings and roads. And also to see nearby drill rigs, old and new. The Pueblo of Zuni is just one of the tribes that asked the federal government to protect Chaco Canyon. Last spring, the All Pueblo Council of Governors passed a resolution supporting protection of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, which thousands of people enjoy visiting. But for the state’s Native Americans, the site is about more than seeing how people lived in the past. After we landed, Martinez spoke about the importance of that landscape to the people of Zuni Pueblo--and he explained that when people visit National Parks like Chaco, they should know that Native American people have not disappeared from the landscape.
Jan 23, 2015
Voices From Drilling Deep: Mike Eisenfeld
While reporting this series, it's really easy to end up with more voices and moments than can ever be plopped into the four-minute feature stories that air on KUNM . That's why o ver the course of this project, I'll be sharing some of those moments with you online. In December, I met up with Mike Eisenfeld with the San Juan Citizen's Alliance. The alliance is one of the groups that is asking the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to hold off on approving new permits for oil wells until it can study the impact new development will have on water and air, landscapes, and nearby communities. We drove around looking at some of the new wells being drilled in Counselor, New Mexico. These are some of the sights we saw -- and Eisenfeld explains what we're seeing.
Jan 21, 2015
"...Like A War Zone": Worries About Increased Oil Drilling
Sarah Jane White’s walking to the top of a sandy hill near the eastern edge of the Navajo reservation. Along the way, she points to footprints in the sand. Her 4-year-old grandson, Albino, crouches to look. She shows him the prints of a horse, then a cow. Each time, he’s delighted. It’s sunny and warm, though just a few days before the official start of winter. We walk past juniper trees, an old sweat lodge. Albino powers across the sandstone arroyo and on up the hill. The sky’s a deep blue. And depending on the breeze, the air smells like either sage or pine. “Right now, there’s healthy people living here,” says White. “The air is fresh. It’s clean.” White and her relatives are “allottees,” Navajo people living on lands deeded to them by the federal government. The federal government deferred new oil leases near Chaco Canyon National Historical Park last month. But many people who live here are still worried about how development outside the park will affect their communities, their
Jan 15, 2015
Archaeologists Worry As Drilling Approaches Chaco
The oil and gas industry in New Mexico is a big deal. It supports the state budget with hundreds of millions of dollars each year. But there are impacts, too – on air quality, water, public health and even cultural sites. In the first installment of KUNM’s new series Drilling Deep , we explore northwestern New Mexico – and the Chacoan landscape. To reach Chaco Culture National Historical Park, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you hang a left off highway 550 near Nageezi, New Mexico and head south. At first the road is paved, though you still might see a few skinny horses crossing back and forth looking for something to eat in the desert scrub. Then, after the pavement ends, it’s about another 14 miles to the park. That’s 14 miles of a dirt road considered “suitable” – in good weather – for all vehicles. In bad weather you can watch Escavada Wash take over the road – and in some places be up to your wheel wells in mud. “I get an overwhelming feeling of, I'm coming back to a
Dec 16, 2014