Bush signs law protecting N.M. valley from drilling for gas

December 16, 2006|By Tom Pelton

President Bush has signed a law that will protect a scenic 102,000-acre valley in New Mexico's Carson National Forest from a proposal to drill more than 500 natural gas wells.

The Valle Vidal, or "Valley of Life," was the focus of a story in The Sun last year that described how liberal environmentalists had joined conservative hunters to fight the drilling plan by the Houston-based El Paso natural gas company.

"The Valle Vidal victory should lead to a waterfall of public lands protections from oil and gas development throughout the West," said Jim O'Donnell, outreach coordinator with an environmental group called the Coalition for the Valle Vidal.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman and Rep. Tom Udall, both Democrats from New Mexico, pushed legislation to protect the valley, which is adjacent to the nation's largest Boy Scout camp, the Philmont Scout Ranch.

The legislation was blocked by Sen. Pete V. Domenici, a New Mexico Republican. But he ended his opposition after Democrats who favored the bill took control of both the Senate and House in November's elections.

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