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Judge Says Anti-Drilling Law Went Too Far

SANTA FE, N.M. (CN) - A federal judge struck down as unconstitutional a New Mexico county law denying oil and gas corporations the status of "persons."

U.S. District Judge John Browning struck down Mora County's ordinance in its entirety, in a 199-page ruling on Jan. 19.

SWEPI, a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell, challenged Mora County Ordinance 2013-10 in January 2014.

In its 2013 law, Mora County, northeast of Santa Fe, prohibited drilling for oil, natural gas or water, and processing waste water from drilling or oil processing inside county limits.

The law also declared that corporations would not have the rights of "persons" in Mora County.

The county said it would recognize the New Mexico and United States' Bills of Rights so long as they did not conflict with the ordinance's statements about the status of corporations in Mora County. It also suspended the County Commission's right to repeal the ordinance, unless by a unanimous vote of the County Commission and a two-thirds vote of the electorate.

Judge Browning wouldn't accept it. He found that the law violates the New Mexico Supremacy Clause, which allows for oil and natural gas extraction, and violated the First and Fifth Amendments.


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