The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Failures in New Mexico Show Need for Federal Oil and Gas Drilling Standards
Today Earthworks’ Oil & Gas Accountability Project released a new report, NM OCD: Inadequate enforcement guarantees irresponsible oil and gas development. Part of a national assessment of state oil and gas regulatory enforcement, highlights of the New Mexico-specific findings include:
- More than 60 percent of active oil & gas wells go uninspected each year
- Where violations are found, individual inspectors have complete discretion as to whether and how violations are recorded—in essence, each inspector is his or her own lawmaker
- Few violators are penalized, and when they are, penalties are too low to deter future violations
- Public is prohibited access to data that would reveal how responsibly industry is operated, and how well Oil Conservation Division (OCD) is enforcing the law
“The OCD has failed in its mission to effectively enforce New Mexico oil and gas laws and regulations," said Gwen Lachelt, Earthworks’ Oil & Gas accountability director. "With their failure they guarantee irresponsible oil and gas development and put landowners, their water and the environment at risk.”
As this report is released, New Mexico is considering whether to weaken or eliminate the "Pit Rule," a national regulatory precedent in the cost-effective minimization of drilling waste.
“When it comes to oil and gas drilling oversight, New Mexico should not make things worse,” said Bruce Baizel, Earthworks’ OGAP senior staff attorney. "This report shows that the OCD does not have drilling oversight covered. If anything, New Mexico's OCD should consider slowing permitting until they get their house in order," he said.
The OCD’s role in enforcing state regulations is particularly important because many federal environmental statutes contain special exemptions for the oil and gas industry.
“New Mexico's failure to enforce its own rules highlights the need to close oil and gas loopholes in the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act,” said Lauren Pagel, Earthworks’ policy director. “OCD’s inadequate performance shows why citizens need to have federal standards, as well as state regulations. In New Mexico’s case, state regulation means inadequate regulation, and therefore, irresponsible development," Pagel said.
The report closes with common-sense recommendations to improve OCD enforcement of oil and gas development regulations, including increasing inspection staff, standardizing and publicizing inspections, and increasing fines for violations.
“Responsible gas development cannot occur without adequate enforcement,” said Earthworks’ Gwen Lachelt. “To fulfill its mission to ‘foster responsible development,' OCD must hire enough inspectors to adequately enforce existing regulations, consistently and publicly report and track violations, and use meaningful penalties to provide a credible deterrent to irresponsible operations.”
For more information, click here.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Charli Shield
At unsettling times like the coronavirus outbreak, it might feel like things are very much out of your control. Most routines have been thrown into disarray and the future, as far as the experts tell us, is far from certain.
By Elizabeth Henderson
Farmworkers, farmers and their organizations around the country have been singing the same tune for years on the urgent need for immigration reform. That harmony turns to discord as soon as you get down to details on how to get it done, what to include and what compromises you are willing to make. Case in point: the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (H.R. 5038), which passed in the House of Representatives on Dec. 11, 2019, by a vote of 260-165. The Senate received the bill the next day and referred it to the Committee on the Judiciary, where it remains. Two hundred and fifty agriculture and labor groups signed on to the United Farm Workers' (UFW) call for support for H.R. 5038. UFW President Arturo Rodriguez rejoiced:
By Julia Conley
A council representing more than 800,000 doctors across the U.S. signed a letter Friday imploring President Donald Trump to reverse his call for businesses to reopen by April 12, warning that the president's flouting of the guidance of public health experts could jeopardize the health of millions of Americans and throw hospitals into even more chaos as they fight the coronavirus pandemic.
By Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner
Over six gallons of water are required to produce one gallon of wine. "Irrigation, sprays, and frost protection all [used in winemaking] require a lot of water," explained winemaker and sommelier Keith Wallace, who's also a professor and the founder of the Wine School of Philadelphia, the largest independent wine school in the U.S. And water waste is just the start of the climate-ruining inefficiencies commonplace in the wine industry. Sustainably speaking, climate change could be problematic for your favorite glass of wine.