New Mexico Amends Rules To Prohibit Oil And Gas Spills

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — It will be unlawful for oil and natural gas drillers to spill liquid waste under revised rules adopted Thursday by New Mexico oil and gas regulators.

The unanimous vote by the state Oil Conservation Commission comes after the panel heard testimony from environmentalists, industry representatives and residents during a daylong hearing.

The changes stem from a joint proposal by the state’s energy agency and the environmental group WildEarth Guardians.

Before now, New Mexico did not have a rule that expressly prohibited drillers from spilling oil, waste water from the drilling process or other liquids. Instead, companies were required to report spills and then work with the state to clean it up.

Industry representatives told the commission that leeway should be given to operators who sustain spills because of weather events, vandalism, equipment breakdowns and other things beyond their control.

Critics argued that the previous rules were inadequate and relied on an honor system that not all operators adhered to, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

Environmentalists during the hearing pointed to state data that showed there were roughly 12,000 spills and releases between 2010 and 2020.

Daniel Timmons of WildEarth Guardians said in a statement that the changes will provide incentive for companies to prevent spills from happening in the first place.