For me, great movies stick in my head for weeks after I've seen them. I like to chew on them for a while in my head to fully digest the themes and underlying meaning. There Will Be Blood, starring Daniel Day Lewis, falls into that category. It's a profound saga of family and greed centered on one man's search for oil in the American west, and I've been chewing on it for a couple of months now.

I recently carved new meaning from the movie while reading about oil & gas wildcatting in our own backyard on Albuquerque's west side.

Have you heard?- it's true. Atrisco Oil & Gas, llc has leased its mineral rights to Tecton Energy, a Houston-based petroleum exploration company that is also trying to open up the Galisteo Basin near Santa Fe. The land is the 50,000+ acres under the control of SunCal/Westland Devco- the out-of-state developer and new owner of the former Atrisco Land Grant property. Will Steadman, local boy turned SunCal operative, also sits on the board of trustees of Atrisco Oil & Gas.

SunCal is a company that has gone out of its way to fabricate this aura of "I'm your friendly developer" by hiring local young professionals to its development team and promoting sensitive "stewardship" of its newly-purchased "remarkable property" filled with "endless plateaus and breathtaking vistas [that] mirror the surrounding topography and where a sense of community fills the air and makes you feel right at home." - quoted from suncalnm.com Yup. There's nothing like breathtaking vistas dotted with Tecton drilling rigs and poisoned aquifers. That's stewardship for ya'.

Behind the scenes, SunCal is dropping money all over the state, hiring a dream team of lobbyists, sponsoring high-dollar fundraisers for key legislators and Democratic party functions.

I know Suncal is in some financial uncertainty, the housing market is tanking and they have investors who want a return on their dollars, but stooping to oil & gas? They're supposed to be creating "sustainable communities". The irony is appalling.

Here's where it gets bloody. A recent letter to South Valley residents from Atrisco O&G CEO Peter Sanchez urges people who want their interests protected to dig deep and support friendly incumbent legislators in the upcoming primary. Mr. Sanchez reminds readers of the important relationship with SunCal and relays the fear that if more people learn what they are up to, the better chance that "anti-development" interests will hinder their success. Ever-insightful mpyre blogger Marjorie had plenty to say as she dissected the letter in all its gall.


What a glimpse into the dirty world of special interest money and politics! Oh yes, there is blood now. We can now see the inner workings of their greed-filled communications as if we are shining a light on some unsavory gathering of roaches around scraps of leftover pizza. The letter implies their acknowledgement that what they are doing is bad and that the only way to protect their interests is to keep their "influential friends" in office.

The bottom line-- SunCal and Oil, unlike water, do mix. It's a bold step for SunCal, a private development corporation, to put so much behind their hand-picked legislators. Then again- they have a lot at stake. With some well-placed contributions they hope to avoid having a reasoned, open debate about the impact of their development on the community and environment. SunCal and Atrisco O&G would much rather have their influential friends in the legislature handle things nice and quietly up in Santa Fe.

Please vote wisely on June 3rd!

Views: 17

Tags: SunCal, albuquerque, development, ethics, gas, oil, politics, primary, side, vote, More…west

Comment by Laura on May 28, 2008 at 2:09pm
Great post, Gabe. I keep looking with amazement toward what folks are doing in Santa Fe County -- and now, Mora County, too -- in terms of really putting the heat on state and county officials.

For instance, drilling opponents in Santa Fe County put enough pressure on their elected officials that there is now a moratorium on drilling in the county, and the state has promised additional studies before allowing any projects to move forward. Just this month, Mora County Commissioners adopted a moratorium, as well.

By the way, the new group that has grown out these local battles is called Common Ground United.)

At any rate, I'm really grateful that you and others (like Coco and Marjorie) are paying close attention to what's happening with the former Atrisco Land Grant and keeping the rest of us up-to-date.

So...looks like there's going to be a big ol' rally on Sunday, June 1 from 12-3 at the Hispanic Cultural Center.
Comment by Juan on May 28, 2008 at 2:26pm
I grew up in Hobbs, NM, a town very dependent on oil drilling. I've definitely seen the negative health impacts first hand and know of many, many accounts. It's sad that these companies put profits over people's health, but with oil reaching over $100 a barrel now I guess the profits to be made are too tempting to consider any of the other implications of oil drilling.
Comment by once banned twice shy on May 28, 2008 at 2:31pm
I think the Atrisquenos might be interested in how much pollution such drilling might introduce into their land. They've already had quite a lot...
Comment by Laura on May 28, 2008 at 2:38pm
Not to veer too far off track from your original message, but check out this map of all the current oil and gas drilling leases in NM.
Comment by Stevie on May 28, 2008 at 7:53pm
Tecton is the same company that wants to drill the Galisteo Basin. The data for the exploration is shoddy at best, but current high oil prices pave the way for such a carpet-bagging operation. The moratoriums are a relief but are only temporary. I'm not categorically against the oil and gas industry, after all I drive a car and heat my home. But I am for responsible oil and gas developement. Until we get more on the ball in developing alternative fuels, I think it is irresponsible to go about destoying every unspoiled piece of land we have left. For all the talk from the higher-ups about weening off of foreign oil and reducing pollution, where's the talk about conservation? New Mexico is an oil state. I'd like to see us step up and be the leader in solar and wind-we've got some to spare. In the mean time, thanks for the great post about this. Let's pay attention and not let SunCal quietly steamroll thier own agendas that take away what we love about New Mexico for its own gains.
Comment by Laura on May 29, 2008 at 7:38am
There's a commentary in the NM Independent this morning about the issue, fyi:
http://newmexicoindependent.com/view/west-siders-beware
Comment by cc on February 5, 2009 at 11:06pm
Just wanted to say Thanks for including these issues in DCF - so glad to get the info from the 1000 Friends site, etc.. Now that we have huge budget deficits, ti's more important to know how these developers get so much handed to them - it should be front page just like the banks getting handouts.

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