AZTEC — Officials from the Bureau of Land Management's Farmington Field Office briefed the San Juan County Commission on Tuesday about a plan to guide development of the Mancos Shale and Gallup Sandstone formations on BLM land.

"We really want to take a hard look at this," BLM Farmington District Manager Dave Evans said.

The resource management plan, which is open for public comment, was developed in 2003. BLM is in the first year of a three-year process to update the document. The agency is seeking input from stakeholders — governments, land owners, environmental groups and the public — to update the plan to address future oil and gas development of the formation.

The oil and natural gas glut spans most of northwestern New Mexico, including the Gallup area to the south and bordering Arizona on the west and Colorado on the north.

The BLM Farmington Field Office hosted a series of public scoping meetings last month to solicit input on amending its resource management plan in northwest New Mexico.

BLM's Farmington Field Office manages more than 4.2 million acres of the formation, and that includes roughly 1.2 million acres of land and more than 3 million acres of subsurface mineral deposits, Evans said after the meeting.

Evans told the commission development of the formation is certain. He encouraged commissioners to submit any comments concerning the plan's revision to BLM.

Commissioner Chairman Jack Fortner said the county is interested in anything it can do to encourage drilling end exploration.

The 2003 plan predicted 9,700 wells would be drilled into the formation, BLM Farmington Field Office Manager Gary Torres said after the meeting. So far, he said, only half of that has been drilled.

The potential oil and natural gas layered underground has "huge socioeconomic impacts," Torres said. And, he added, the BLM wants to work with the county — and all other stakeholders — so the federal agency can be consistent with their "vision for the future."

Electrician Jasper Pete, of Shiprock, works on the production side of WPX Energy Rig 980 on Tuesday off of U.S. Highway 550 near Chaco Culture National
Electrician Jasper Pete, of Shiprock, works on the production side of WPX Energy Rig 980 on Tuesday off of U.S. Highway 550 near Chaco Culture National Historical Park. (Megan Farmer / The Daily Times)

"What Dave and I have really been trying to preach is responsible energy development," Torres said.

The deadline for comment has been extended to May 28. Comments can be submitted by email to, by fax at 505-564-7608 or by mail to Lindsey Eoff at 6251 N. College Blvd. Suite A, Farmington, N.M. 87402.

Initial test well results of the formation are promising, said Jason Sandel, vice president of Aztec Well, which holds a contract to drill and service oil and natural gas wells with a number of companies, including WPX Energy.

He anticipates significant development will begin in 2015.

"Of course, all of that is if oil prices maintain where they are," he said, adding that oil is priced currently at about $100 a barrel.

Dan Schwartz covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606 and Follow him @dtdschwartz on Twitter.