A Case About Oil And Gas Pollution In New Mexico Is Heard In Santa Fe


This week, a court hearing is set for a lawsuit that says New Mexico is breaking people’s rights to a clean and healthy environment by not holding its oil and gas business responsible.

The case was filed last May by a coalition of environmental groups, indigenous communities, and people who live close to extraction sites, according to Tim Davis, staff attorney for the Wild Earth Guardians Climate and Energy Program.

In New Mexico, oil and gas output and income have gone through the roof in the last ten years. Davis, however, said that the state is not following through on its constitutional duty to control pollution by not keeping an eye on fossil fuel projects properly after they are allowed.

“We haven’t increased the number of inspectors or inspections with the increase in production – the state has also not stepped up any enforcement activity,” he said.

The court case says that some New Mexico laws that are supposed to control hazardous waste and groundwater pollution don’t apply to the oil and gas business, and the laws that do apply aren’t being enforced properly. A spokesperson for the governor’s office called the lawsuit “misguided” when it was first filed, saying that it would take attention away from the government’s work on climate problems.

New Mexico’s general fund gets most of its money from oil and gas production. Earlier this year, it made the most money ever, $109 million. Also, about 10% more has been made in the last year. Davis thinks that means action needs to be taken right away to stop the pollution situation from getting worse.

Also, “you have more and more production,” he said. “We know that leads to more and more pollution, but at the same time we’re not doing anything to control that pollution – and so this case at its core is about holding the State of New Mexico accountable.”

On Friday, the Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico and the New Mexico Chamber of Commerce will ask the First Judicial Court in Santa Fe to hear their case along with the rest of the parties. As part of a climate change speaker series put on by New Mexico State University, Davis will talk about the court case and other topics tonight.

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