SANTA FE, NM (AP) – It will be illegal for oil and natural gas drillers to dump liquid waste under revised rules adopted Thursday by New Mexico’s oil and gas regulators. The unanimous vote by the state’s Petroleum Conservation Commission comes after the panel heard testimony from environmentalists, industry representatives and residents during a day-long hearing.
The changes stem from a joint proposal by the state energy agency and environmental group WildEarth Guardians.
Previously, New Mexico did not have a rule expressly prohibiting drillers from spilling oil, sewage 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 flexibility should be given to operators who experience spills due to weather events, vandalism, equipment failure and other factors beyond their control. .
Critics argued that the previous rules were inadequate and were based on an honor system that not all operators adhere to, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.
At the hearing, environmentalists pointed to state data which showed there were around 12,000 spills and releases between 2010 and 2020.
Daniel Timmons of WildEarth Guardians said in a statement that the changes will push companies to prevent spills from happening in the first place.