Not a Drop of Water to Spare

By Gwynne Ann Unruh, The Paper.

March 4, 2021

The fast and furious pace of regulation hearings, combined with a slew of legislative bills and amendments, appears to have blindsided New Mexico Oil and Gas Association (NMOGA) members and left them trying to figure out a way forward. NMOGA stated in an email, “The legislature has been fast-tracking bills that put oil and gas jobs and billions of dollars in state revenues in jeopardy, severely limiting funding for our schools, roads, first responders and healthcare.” With leases stockpiled, pre-Biden administration NMOGA members won’t run out of land to drill or frack for many years—even with the federal leasing moratorium. However, they are running out of water for fracking and are facing massive regulations on the toxic produced water that their industry creates.

New Mexico Environmental Oversight Increases, But Officials Say More Funding Needed

By Scott Wyland, Santa Fe New Mexican

February 28, 2021

A disastrous blowout at the Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colo., released tons of toxic metals and acidic waste into the Animas and San Juan rivers in 2015, resulting in an $11 million settlement with the state of New Mexico.

An open-pit mining operation contaminated Questa’s surface and groundwater badly enough to put it on a federal Superfund list, leading to a recent $2.3 million payout to cover water improvements.

Advocates Decry Tabling of Protect Our Water Fracking Waste Bill

By Sierra Club

February 15, 2021, Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to table SB 86 after Chairman Joseph Cervantes (D-31) unprecedentedly silenced proponents of the bill from giving public comment in committee. 

“It was unfortunate to see both the democrats and republicans on Senate Judiciary vote to table SB 86. What needs to be emphasized and understood is that we don’t have a law on the books regulating oil and gas industry waste in N.M. Our priority should be communities who are most impacted by this waste and not industry. Such a travesty.” – Gail Evans, NM Environmental Law Center 

Bills on Community Solar and Air Quality Permit Denials Pass Committees

By Kendra Chamberlain, NM Political Report

January 29, 2021

The state Senate Conservation Committee passed a community solar bill Thursday after a lengthy debate and multiple amendment proposals. Legislators have introduced various community solar bills over the past years, but the newest version of the bill was drafted by a task force that was created during the last session. 

In the House, the Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee passed HB 76, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Christine Chandler of Los Alamos. The bill would amend the state’s Air Quality Control Act to allow the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) to deny a permit application or revoke an existing permit on the basis of an operator’s poor compliance history. 

New Mexico Senators, Advocates Back Biden Oil and Gas Plans

By Susan Montoya Bryan, Associated Press

January 27, 2021

The Biden administration last week suspended for 60 days the regulatory authority of federal land managers in field offices across the country, meaning any decisions regarding leasing, permitting or other reviews and approvals have to be funneled to top officials with the U.S. Interior Department.

Virginia Necochea, executive director of the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, said the moratorium will force decision-makers in New Mexico and elsewhere to act more quickly on climate change and environmental justice issues. “This is our opportunity to end the practice of ‘profits over people.’ Now is not the time to exempt oil and gas operators from this critically necessary moratorium.”