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Ex-State Official Backs Oil Comany – Consultant Says Wells in Rio Chama Can be Safely Drilled

A former state official acting as a consultant for the oil company seeking to drill in the Rio Chama watershed told a regulatory hearing Monday that the proposed wells can be safely drilled, despite the opposition of Rio Arriba County officials and several people who spoke in a public comment period at the end of the daylong hearing.

Hearing examiner David Brooks on Monday evening took under advisement the opposing applications before the New Mexico Oil Conservation Division of Approach Resources Inc. and Rio Arriba County, who are battling over Approach’s right to drill for shale oil in northern New Mexico.

A key witness for the oil company, Approach Resources, was consultant hydrologist Peter Maggiore. A former secretary of the state Environment Department, Maggiore is operations manager for the southern division of North Wind Inc., an environmental consulting firm in Los Alamos.

Maggiore said the wells can be drilled without damage to hydrologic resources with the use of tanks instead of pits and their casing and tubing operations. The well facilities can comply with the state Oil and Gas Act’s rules, and the work will be facilitated by the use of air drilling.