Oil-Drilling Ban In Mora County Prompts Lawsuit

Nov 13, 2013

Mora County is being sued for an ordinance that bans oil and gas drilling within the county.
Credit Rita Daniels

The move by Mora County Commissioners to ban oil and gas development within the county this Spring has prompted the Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico to team up with local landowners and take the issue to federal court.

A lawsuit filed yesterday claims the ordinance is unconstitutional. Richard Gilliland with the Petroleum Association says they decided to sue after the measure was approved. 

"In attempting to disallow any oil and gas extraction or development within the borders of Mora County, they have basically violated due process and violated individuals property rights," Gilliland explains.

But that’s not all the law does, according to Alex Ritchie. He is an Assistant Professor specializing in Oil and Gas Law at the University of  New Mexico. He says the County’s ordinance is definitely a bold move because it includes language that eliminates the rights of corporations looking to drill. 

"Mora County could have sought to impose some reasonable restrictions on drilling or fracking under it's zoning power instead of adopting such an extreme ordinance," Ritchie says.

The question is whether the court will separate the corporate provision from the drilling ban provision in order for the ban to stand-alone.