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“Pause Fracking for Protections” bill moves forward

February 13, 2021
Rebecca Sobel, WildEarth Guardians, (267) 402-0724, rsobel@wildearthguardians.org
In This Release
Climate + Energy  

Santa Fe, NM—Today the New Mexico Senate Conservation committee voted in favor (5-4) of SB 149, the “Pause Fracking for Protections” bill.

“New Mexico should be open for business, but not exploitation,” said Senator Sedillo Lopez.

Sponsored by Senator Antoinette Sedillo Lopez (D-16) and Representative Patricia Roybal Caballero (D-13), SB 149 follows President Biden’s executive order pausing new oil and gas leasing on federal land by instating a four-year pause on new fracking permits to allow nine state agencies to study the cumulative impacts of industrialized fracking on local communities, land, air, water, public health and safety, and increased economic resilience. It also includes a definition of “multi-stage hydraulic fracking” and “horizontal drilling” in the Oil and Gas Act to distinguish between “traditional” oil and gas extraction technologies.

Dr. Sandra Steingraber from New York, the bill’s expert witness and author of The Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking stated, “Six years ago the New York State made the wise decision to halt fracking development while seriously considering its consequences on our land, water, climate, and communities. New Mexico has made the wise decision today – pushing the “pause” button on new fracking licenses to protect the health, safety, and quality of life of New Mexicans while legislators and citizen alike consider the troubling findings of the now more than 2,000 studies on the risks and harms of fracking and what kind of energy future the state will pursue.“

New Mexico does not regulate multi-stage hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling – industrialized fracking – differently from “traditional” or vertical drilling despite industrialized wells drilling at depths of 7,000-10,000 feet below ground and then horizontally up to two miles in every direction while vertical wells drill depths of just 1,000 feet vertically.

“Today legislators heard about the overwhelming impacts of fracking from expert witness Dr. Steingraber. It is clearer than ever that now is the time to pause permitting so New Mexico can assess the impacts of industrialized fracking on water, workers, families and communities,” said Elaine Cimino of Common Ground Rising, “Legislators understand the need to move beyond the boom and bust oil and gas economy, and SB 149 gives decisionmakers time to gather data and formulate a plan toward restoration and transition.“

Last October the Governor’s climate Change Task Force released its second annual report showing oil and gas as the state’s largest emitter of climate pollution. According to the Drilling Toward Disaster report, by 2030, annual carbon dioxide emissions from burning New Mexico’s oil and gas will reach over 550 million metric tons per year, the equivalent of 141 coal plants.

“Governor Lujan Grisham has committed New Mexico to stand in accord with a 1.5 degree world, but we cannot make science-based efforts to address climate change without full knowledge of the impacts of fracking on our collective health, wealth, and wellness.” said Rebecca Sobel, WildEarth Guardians senior climate and energy campaigner. “The ‘Pause Fracking for Protections’ bill allows for a democratic legislative process in the interest of citizens, free from the pressures of industrial lobbies, and able to invert a trend that continues to favor environmental pollution, water contamination and climate inequity.”

The legislative analysis recounted significant concerns from Tribal communities with ongoing and proposed fracking operations, including impacts to the water and environment, health impacts, impacts to cultural resources and sacred sites, and the impact of the increased traffic and non-residents in tribal communities.

“Industry says that we need fracking to support education, but is it right to fund the education of one New Mexican student with oil and gas profits at the cost of the health and wellbeing of another New Mexican student from a frontline community?” said Food & Water Watch senior organizer Margaret Wadsworth. “Unchecked fracking puts the most vulnerable New Mexicans and Indigenous communities at risk. It is past time for New Mexico to reverse course and abandon blind allegiance to oil and gas. The whole world is watching.”

The grassroots, citizen-led effort to support this bill, the Pause on Fracking coalition, represents dozens of New Mexico Indigenous, public health, environment, and justice organizations.

Fracking threatens health and safety across New Mexico, including in Navajo communities in the Greater Chaco region.

Other Contact
Margaret Wadsworth, Food & Water Watch, (505) 750-2980, mwadsworth@fwwatch.org