Skip to main content

Press release: Rollback of Pit Rules out of touch with New Mexcans’ values for clean, safe drinking water

By July 11, 2013January 10th, 2023Press Releases

(Santa Fe, NM) – Despite broad support from New Mexicans to keep strong pit rules on the books that protect our groundwater, members of the New Mexico Oil Conservation Commission (OCC) – the majority appointed by Governor Martinez – on Thursday approved amendments to the rule proposed by two oil and gas associations. The amendments put our water supplies at risk by removing efforts to encourage more modern and protective closed-loop drilling methods and allowing for drilling wastes to be buried in place, among other rollbacks.
In 2012, amidst OCC hearings to consider the pit rules amendments, Conservation Voters New Mexico Education Fund (CVNMEF) and SouthWest Organizing Project gathered and delivered to the Governor’s office over 12,000 petitions from New Mexicans expressing support for strong pit rules.
“Failure to protect our water puts our state’s long-term economic health, as well as the wellbeing of all New Mexicans, at risk,” said Demis Foster, CVNMEF Executive Director. “The robust response we received in petitions supporting strong pit rules make it clear that Gov. Martinez and her administration are not reflecting the values important to New Mexicans.”
Allowing for onsite burial of wastes contaminated with high levels of chlorides and other contaminants with little or no protection from these pollutants leaching to groundwater is unacceptable in a state that gets 90% of its drinking water from groundwater. By weakening the pit rules, New Mexico would expose these underground drinking water supplies to contamination at a time when worsening drought caused by climate change is making these pristine aquifers all the more precious.
The original pit rules were adopted in 2008 after extensive input from industry, ranchers, conservationists and residents. These rules, praised as the nation’s best, created proper waste management guidelines and are designed to protect our land, water and wildlife from toxic spills and leaks generated from oil and gas operations. Since its enactment, the oil and gas industry has attacked it from all sides. State records show that before the pit rules were implemented, there were more than 400 industry-reported cases of groundwater contamination. After the adoption of the rule, there has not been a single reported case of groundwater contamination from an oil and gas waste pit.
The conservation community is outraged at the administration’s attacks on the safeguards that protect the water we drink and the air we breathe. In addition to stripping environmental safeguards from the pit rules, Martinez’s administration has: rolled back the state’s cost-saving energy code, removed critical carbon pollution reduction rules, and is currently exploring copper mining rules that would contaminate our groundwater and violate the New Mexico Clean Water Act. CVNM Education Fund is dedicated to honoring our natural heritage and cherished way of life. We seek to inspire citizens, engage voters and transform the value of the protection of our air, land, and water in a way that will enhance and inform the voting process.
Contact: Communications Manager Liliana Castillo at 505.992.8683 or 575.219.9619