Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has announced a proposal for the simultaneous development of oil, gas and potash in the southeast of New Mexico which could bring an end to long-standing legal wrangles over resource extraction, in a region which is host to the USA’s largest potash reserves.
Oil, gas and potash developers have been mired in legal disputes for decades over resource extraction rights in the area, with the key issue being spoilage of potash deposits and the safety of miners.
Potash, one of the main ingredients in fertilizer, is situated above oil and gas deposits. Potash companies are opposed to the development of oil and gas beneath potash deposits, on the grounds that drilling both spoils the potash and poses a danger to miners.
Salazar’s proposal would see the identification of areas for safe development of oil and gas, and buffer zones for the drilling of fossil fuels without affecting potash deposits.
“Drilling islands” would be established within a 625-square-mile area where potash resources are protected, and which is home to three-quarters of potash extracted in the US, as well as nearly 800 federal oil and gas leases.
According to experts, the development of new drilling technologies means Salazar’s plan is now a possibility.
Salazar has been working with a committee on the development of the proposal since meeting with industry representatives in January, and expects a final order by the fall.