Senate Vote Crucial Step Toward Major Oil and Gas Reform in New Mexico

By a vote of 32-6, House Bill 546 was passed by the New Mexico State Senate. After a concurrence vote in the State House and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s signature, the bill would restore the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD) Oil Conservation Division’s (OCD) authority to enforce the state’s oil and gas protections, while also making key clarifications and improvements to the regulation of produced water in New Mexico.

OCD lost its ability to meaningfully address oil and gas violations due to a 2009 New Mexico Supreme Court ruling, and has relied on the New Mexico Attorney General’s office to accomplish basic enforcement tasks such as assessing fines. A recent report found that oil and gas-related spills and violations increased nearly 100 percent over the last decade since the ruling, while fines assessed by the agency dropped to zero last year.

The produced water provisions in the bill will also help industry use less fresh water and improve oversight of produced water more broadly.

“This bill is New Mexico’s first major oil and gas legislative reform in over a decade and is a testament to the strong health and safety policies being championed by Gov. Lujan Grisham. Gov. Lujan Grisham and EMNRD Secretary Sarah Cottrell Propst deserve a tremendous amount of credit for getting this major reform done. Their leadership catalyzed these reforms and created a bill that all sides – industry and environmentalists, as well as Democrats and Republicans – support.

 “We would have preferred this bill followed the examples of the other agencies in New Mexico, as well as in neighboring Texas and Colorado, by not including an administrative cap on penalties — but restoring New Mexico’s ability to protect its health and resources from oil and gas pollution is a critical accomplishment.

“Gov. Lujan Grisham, Sen. Richard Martinez, Rep. Matthew McQueen and Rep. Nathan Small have been instrumental in delivering this major reform to New Mexico’s oil and gas industry. Their constituents and communities across the state will be better off thanks to this legislation.”
 

  • Jon Goldstein, Director of Regulatory and Legislative Affairs, Energy

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