Residents fight transportation of crude oil to Lamy

By Teresa Seamster, Tom Gorman and Norma McCallan
Northern N.M. Group
The signs along Highway 285 south to Lamy, N.M., say it all: No Crude Oil in Lamy.
With a recent track inspection conducted by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railroad, it looks as if transporting crude oil carries many requirements and risks that will likely make that slogan come true for residents of Lamy.
The oil proposition
The tiny historic town of Lamy was stunned to discover this winter that Pacer Energy had signed a favorable lease with the financially strapped Santa Fe Southern Railroad to develop a crude-oil loading dock on a minuscule quarter-acre of land owned by SFSR next to the Lamy railroad station, where the Southwest Chief makes its daily stops on its Chicago-to-Los Angeles route. The shipping terminal would be used to transfer 25 to 45 tanker truckloads, each weighing 80,000 pounds when full of crude oil, every week, from Farmington to Lamy bound for delivery points south of Albuquerque.
The impact of such a large industrial operation in a town of 140 people, in the heart of town, was enough to bring hundreds of area residents to the first community meeting.
The organizers of the first public meeting provided a fact sheet to attendees that laid out the plans of Pacer Energy Marketing LLC to utilize Lamy as a loading/unloading terminal to transfer highly volatile and toxic crude oil from trucks to tanker cars. Community leaders covered the concerns for the community:
-- Public safety
-- Noise and light pollution
-- Quality of life
-- Traffic safety, pedestrians, dogs, livestock and bicyclists
-- Property values
-- Conflict with County zoning and Sustainability Code
-- Impact on tourism
-- Potential damage to historic register church
-- Impact on the Galisteo Basin wildlife corridor
-- Concern over proximity of Galisteo Creek and Lamy community well ­— both located within 110 feet of the proposed site.
When the meeting was opened up for questions, the project was universally opposed by those in attendance. The two representatives from Pacer who were present were new hires as drivers and could not answer the numerous questions asked by the audience.
Congressional delegation weighs in
A meeting was then held on Feb. 11 at Sen. Martin Heinrich’s office in Santa Fe with officers of the Northern New Mexico Group and Patricia Dominguez on the senator’s staff. Our purpose was to discuss the Lamy issue, and provide as much information as possible to help the office determine the best course of action.
On Feb. 26, a joint letter signed by Sen. Heinrich, Sen. Tom Udall and U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján was sent to Pacer, addressing the strong concerns of the residents of Lamy. The letter indicated that the congressional offices would be working with state and local officials to determine what jurisdictions, permits and regulations would apply to this project.
Finally, the letter included a long list of requests to Pacer that may prove difficult for them to answer, particularly one that asks Pacer to describe the benefits of this project for the community.
A recent track inspection requested by BNSF has pinpointed 22 miles of tracks south of Lamy, including two bridges, that are not sufficiently upgraded to meet the standards required for heavy oil tanker shipments.
BNSF has communicated that they have no contract with Pacer and have NO present plans to allow oil shipments through Lamy.