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WildEarth Guardians calls on New Mexico to ban toxic forever chemical use by the oil and gas industry

May 25, 2023
Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians, (303) 437-7663, jnichols@wildearthguardians.org
In This Release
Climate + Energy  
Santa Fe, NMWildEarth Guardians today called on New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration to ban the oil and gas industry’s use of toxic forever chemicals when drilling and fracking in the state.

A coalition of over 40 environmental, health, community, faith, and tribal organizations and representatives joined in supporting the call and urged the Governor get behind the proposal as well.

“The oil and gas industry is getting a free pass to pollute, putting New Mexico’s clean water and health at risk,” said Jeremy Nichols, Climate and Energy Program Director for WildEarth Guardians.  “Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has championed efforts to rein in toxic forever chemical pollution. She needs to ensure the oil and gas industry is held accountable just like everyone else.”

In an application for a rule filed with the New Mexico Oil Conservation Commission, Guardians called on the Michelle Lujan Grisham administration to ban the use of perfluroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, referred to as PFAS, by the oil and gas industry.

In a letter supporting the application, a coalition of more than 40 organizations and individuals stated, “There is an urgent need for the Oil Conservation Commission to ensure that the oil and gas industry is held accountable to the same public health, welfare, and safety standards as other chemical industries.”

The request comes on the heels of a report by Physicians for Social Responsibility that found the oil and gas industry has used PFAS when drilling and fracking wells in New Mexico.

PFAS are a class of chemicals known for their toxicity at extraordinarily low levels, their multiple negative health effects including cancer, and their persistence in the environment, leading to their nickname, “forever chemicals.”

Responding to incidents of PFAS contamination in New Mexico, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate PFAS under federal hazardous waste law.  Unfortunately, oil and gas industry waste is exempt from regulation under federal law.

Today’s request to the Oil Conservation Commission aims to address the oil and gas industry waste loophole and ensure drillers and frackers are held accountable to limiting PFAS use just like other industries.

“To address this serious regulatory gap, Guardians proposes the Commission adopt rules to ensure PFAS are properly regulated pursuant to the New Mexico Oil and Gas Act,” said WildEarth Guardians in its application for a rulemaking.

Guardians’ request calls on the Oil Conservation Commission to amend its regulations to both ban the use of PFAS by the oil and gas industry and strengthen chemical disclosure requirements to ensure compliance.  The request asks the Commission to adopt rules that are nearly identical to provisions adopted by the State of Colorado in 2022.

Guardians request asks the Commission to set a hearing to adopt the new rules in September 2023.  The Oil Conservation Commission will likely decide whether to grant WildEarth Guardians’ request and set a hearing at its next meeting, tentatively scheduled for June 8.

Protest outside of the New Mexico Governor’s Office. Photo by WildEarth-Guardians