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“Congratulations to Governor Michelle Lujan-Grisham for taking this action to protect New Mexico’s vital water resources. Restoring the Oil Conservation Division’s authority to enforce the law, and strengthening its resources, will protect New Mexican’s health, pocketbooks, air and water.

“The bill essentially reverses a 2009 court case that decided that the OCD can inspect oil and gas facilities and issue violations, but could not issue penalties to rulebreakers, effectively wiping away its enforcement authority. As a result, in 2018, even though OCD reported 1,700 violations, it collected $0 in penalties. In the last nine years, OCD reported 10,864 violations, and issued less than a dozen penalties totaling $64,500. Clearly, more was needed to get the industry to pay attention. The bill encourages the oil and gas industry to follow the law, not break it.

“It is disappointing to see that the industry inserted an exceptional $200,000 cap on penalties, which is not imposed on other New Mexico agencies when assessing similar air and groundwater quality penalties. However, we applaud the leadership of the Governor and legislature in taking this first step in reforming outdated oil and gas regulations in favor of fairness and good governance.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION

The bill signed into law reflects many of the recommendations issued by Earthworks in a report issued in January titled “New Mexico’s Moving Forward: Restoring the Oil Conservation Division’s Strength and Authority.”

Hilary Lewis, (202) 887-1872 x101, hlewis@earthworks.org

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