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Guardians Cautiously Applauds New Mexico’s Step to Outlaw Toxic Oil and Gas Industry Spills
“We applaud Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and her administration for recognizing the need to tackle the serious problem of toxic oil and gas industry spills,” said Jeremy Nichols, Climate and Energy Program Director for WildEarth Guardians. “However, unless and until we get an actual rule on the books, these spills remain an emergency health, safety, and environmental concern.”
In September, Guardians petitioned the New Mexico Oil Conservation Commission to adopt a rule to prohibit spills of the oil and gas industry’s toxic fluid waste, otherwise known as “produced water.”
In spite of the immense public health, safety, and environmental hazards, these spills are not expressly illegal. This has led to an unprecedented surge in “produced water” spills in New Mexico, the result of poor maintenance, human error, and carelessness.
At a hearing today before the Oil Conservation Commission, WildEarth Guardians Staff Attorney, Daniel Timmons, made the case for outlawing “produced water” spills, stating:
“WildEarth Guardians and the public don’t think it should be ok to spill toxic oil and gas wastewater here in New Mexico. Period. So we’re asking the Commission to exercise its authority and take this most basic step to protect public health, the environment, and fresh water resources, by prohibiting spills and releases of produced water….Given the toxic emergency posed by daily wastewater spills, we ask that you initiate a formal rulemaking on this proposal to be heard as soon as possible.”
In response, the New Mexico Oil Conservation Commission agreed with Guardians and set a hearing for April 1, 2021 to consider adopting rules that would effectively ban “produced water” spills.
“While this hearing date is later than we requested, we’re pleased the Commission agreed to address the very real and very urgent need to confront toxic produced water spills in New Mexico,” said Nichols. “We hope the Commission stays true to its course and ultimately ensures that produced water spills are fully outlawed.”
Earlier this week, Guardians joined youth climate activists in delivering a report and staging an action calling to action to New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham around the broader issue of “produced water” regulation. In response to oil and gas industry pressure, state environmental regulators have signaled a willingness to ease regulation of this toxic waste and even allow it to be discharged into streams dumped on crops.
Guardians has condemned the weakening of “produced water” oversight given that it would undermine the climate and further threaten public health, safety, and the environment.