The Aquifer when fracked

The Aquifer when fracked

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Greater Chaco Coalition: NM Indian and Veterans Affairs committee passed Moratorium on Fracking Memorial

Victory! NM House Committee on Indian and Veteran Affairs unanimously passed the memorial in support of a moritorium on fracking Greater Chaco!! 5 Dems, and 4 Republicans. Historic!
Thanks Charlotte for the Facebook post!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Bill to bring back oil and gas pollution penalty moves forward By Laura Paskus

Bill to bring back oil and gas pollution penalty moves forward


Laura Paskus
Sen. Richard Martinez, D-EspaƱola

Sen. Richard Martinez, D-EspaƱola, presented a bill to the Senate Conservation Committee Thursday that would restore a state agency’s ability to penalize oil and gas companies that pollute water. Senate Bill 307 would also increase those penalties, which haven’t been updated since the Legislature passed the Oil and Gas Act of 1935.
During his presentation to the committee, Martinez pointed out the timeliness of the bill as the Trump administration has emphasized, he said, the “need to shift power to states.” If passed and signed into law, SB 307 would “ensure we meet the federal government’s standards for New Mexico to be in charge of its oil and gas programs,” he said.
Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency can authorize states to take over certain regulatory duties. Under that program, states must be able to assess penalties against companies that pollute water.
But in New Mexico, the state’s Oil Conservation Division (OCD) hasn’t been able to do that for years.
In 2009, Marbob Energy Corporation, now owned by Concho Resources, sued OCD. The company argued that the division lacked the authority to assess civil penalties and sanctions against companies that polluted water resources.
The New Mexico Supreme Court sided with Marbob, ruling that OCD should instead report violations to the New Mexico Office of the Attorney General, which could in turn sue to collect penalties. Because the AG must prove that the pollution violation was committed “knowingly and willfully,” to enforce civil penalties on oil and gas companies, it must prove the violation to a criminal standard.
Since 2009, OCD has not referred any violations to the AG.
Pros and cons
During the committee meeting, more than a dozen citizens and representatives of environmental groups spoke in support of the bill.
Those groups included the League of Women Voters, Sierra Club, Interfaith Light and Power, Conservation Voters New Mexico, New Mexico Wildlife Federation, New Mexico Solar Energy Association, Juntos and the New Mexico Environmental Law Center.
Mary Feldblum, representing the Oil and Gas Accountability Project, pointed out that New Mexico’s current penalties are far lower than those in other states. “This would impose penalties on bad actors,” she told the committee members, “it has nothing to do with the good actors.”
Industry representatives opposed the bill.
“With all due respect to the sponsor, who has been very good to business, there are misperceptions about the penalties,” said Mike D’Antonio, lobbyist for the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association. D’Antonio pointed out that OCD has many different enforcement actions at its disposal. The division can shut-in wells, for example, or ban operators from receiving new permits. Those and other actions are as or more effective than penalties, D’Antonio argued.
Industry also opposed language in the bill that would eliminate the requirement that a person acted “knowingly and willfully” in their violation of the Oil and Gas Act.
“I believe there are a lot of problems with the bill,” said Karin Foster, executive director of the New Mexico Independent Petroleum Association. Those include eliminating the knowing and willful standard and also the bill’s language concerning violations that “threaten to pollute groundwater.”
Foster added that industry would like to work with advocates to make the bill better.

U.S. Energy Information Administration
Map of the Permian Basin
“This sort of bill has a real impact on us, small operators like us,” said Claire Chase with Mack Energy, which she said employs about 1,000 people.
“With oil coming back, the Permian Basin is the next big play,” Chase said. “Companies look at New Mexico and if it’s unfriendly, they’re going to go drill in Texas.”
The Permian Basin, with its vast oil deposits, encompasses part of west Texas and southeastern New Mexico. Most of the basin falls within Texas.
Gabrielle Gerholt with Concho Resources also spoke against the bill. A former general counsel with OCD, Gerholt said Martinez was misinformed about the agency. The Marbob case, she said, ensured that the cases of companies accused of violating the law would be heard by a neutral body—a court—rather than by OCD.
She also invited people to look on the OCD website, where penalties are listed.
According to the division’s website, in 2016 it assessed $20,000 in penalties against a total of five companies for six incidents.
That same year saw a total of 1,264 “unauthorized releases” of crude oil, natural gas and produced water statewide.
“A simple bill”
Following public comment, Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, noted that he introduced a similar bill in 2009.
He also asked about fines in other states and wondered how today’s penalties stack up against the 1935-implemented penalty of $1,000 per day.
Martinez’ expert witness, attorney Michelle Miano, said that penalties in Texas are $10,000 per day. And committee members and staffers calculated that in today’s dollars, the 1935 penalty of $1,000 per day is equivalent to about $17,000 today when adjusting for inflation.
The bill’s proposed $10,000 per day maximum penalty isn’t close to that, Wirth noted. “Before arguing that the sky is falling, let’s put this into perspective,” said Wirth, who added, “People can message this how they want, but [the bill] is trying to bring it up to date.”
The committee’s Republican senators disagreed.
Sen. William Payne, R-Albuquerque, raised a hypothetical scenario, envisioning “some poor guy” putting the wrong date on a permit application and then facing a third-degree felony.
The bill would make it a third-degree felony if a person knowingly violates the Oil and Gas Act or falsifies, omits or destroys required records.
Sen. Ron Griggs, R-Alamogordo, also spoke against the bill, which he said appeared to have been worked on “without talking to the people involved.”
During a discussion about penalties and spills, Sen. Bill Soules, D-Las Cruces, asked if anyone from OCD, a division of the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department, was in the room.
No employees of the division nor the agency were present.
The committee passed the bill along party lines. SB 307 heads next to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Martinez, who chairs that committee, spoke with NM Political Report Thursday after the hearing.
“It’s really a simple bill. If you look at the violations and penalties in our surrounding states, New Mexico is the lowest,” he said. “All we’re trying to do is bring the civil penalties up to standard and give the OCD the authority to impose those rather than having to go to the Attorney General’s Office.”
Martinez said he was disappointed no one from OCD or EMNRD attended the meeting. “They haven’t communicated with me at all,” he said, “though I think the bill helps them in many ways.”
As the bill moves forward, Martinez said he hopes to work on some of the issues brought up at the meeting to build a consensus. But, he said, “I’m not sure we’re going to convince the industry that it’s not a bad bill.”
Correction: The story originally misidentified Mike D’Antonio as John D’Antonio.

P&Z Commission ordinance changes Corrupt Please come to March 2 6pm meeting Sandoval BOCC

Help us Stop the P&Z Commission Ordiannce Changes BY the Corruption in the Sandoval County Planning office. 

The new P and Z Commissioners will be appointed after this ordinance March 2 agenda item is passed. 

I think this is more of a legal question about Joann Rouke ousting off the P and Z  but especially given that the County is attempting to change and mold the ordinance to their liking and that in doing so they acknowledge their current need to change existing policy not to their liking, it would appear that the P and Z commission would not be able to be retroactively removed by these subsequent changes, unless by this revised method. 

Hence, MIke Springfield it appears is attempting to stack the P&Z in favor of the Oil and Gas Industry liking. 

Call and Email Tell MIKE Springfield what you think of his schemes and underhanded actions ont he Ordiannces process for this P&Z Commission and the oil and gas ordinance obstructions. 

Michael Springfield
Director, Planning & Zoning
Phone: 505-867-7628Email: 

Members may be removed for cause by a majority vote of the full Board. Cause is undefined here, but it would seem that cause is much more than at will with respect to the existing P and Z members. No matter, the process still must be followed. 

  • That change is the proposed language that allows a newly elected commissioner to replace “any member appointed by a predecessor.”  That really politicizes the P and Z commission.  Commissioners are like judges and should not be removed just because someone wins an election. It should not be a spoils system.
  • The other change we are against is the ability to appoint a new P and Z commissioner to just fill the remaining term of an open commission seat.  It is hard enough to find qualified people willing to serve as a P and Z commissioner.  Why tie the hands of the commission to find good people?  Who would want to serve a four month term?

Its time to stand against this outright corruption BY the Sandoval County Planning Department.  

There is one change in the proposed ordinance dealing with the appointment of p and Z commissioners that I think needs to be strongly opposed at March 2 meeting. 

AT any rate.  Please come to testify against these two changes.  Hope others will be there as well.

 CALL and Email The Sandoval County Commissioners 
Sandoval County Commission

Don Chapman


David Heil


Jay Block


James Dominguez


Kenneth Eichwald


Tell the Commissioners
  • To Stop Mike Springfield (Sandoval County Planning Director) from politicizing judges (commissioners) on the P&Z Commission 
  • To stop  the vote and language on the Replacement of any member appointed by a predecessor must be stricken for the ordinance.
  • This smacks of corruption as the County is attempting to change and mold the oil and gas ordinance to their liking and that of the oil and gas industry.
Yes, we can stop this.  We can raise serious questions about these proposed changes to future appointments.  We need lots of people raising questions about the new ordinances.

Suggested letter to the Commissioners

I am writing about proposed changes to the Planning and Zoning Commission Ordinance.

I have spoken before about the ambiguity of the current Ordinance. However, I have concerns about the revised Draft.

The current Ordinance calls for P&Z Commissioners to serve staggered terms. This makes sense in that there should be some experienced Commissioners at all times.

I suggest that the Ordinance contain a schedule of Commissioner Year of Expiration by District.
Since District 1 and District 5 are assigned to have 2 Commissioners, one term should expire in an odd year and the other in an even year. Districts 2,3 and 4 should be assigned expirations with 2 odd, 1 even or 2 even, 1 odd year as to best fit the current assignments.

Historically, the P&Z Commission has had a number of open positions as filling some spots has been problematic. When a position becomes open because of a resignation or other reason, a replacement should be appointed for a minimum term or one year, but up to two years. This would give a new member time to get “up to speed” to do an effective job.

I believe the P&Z Commission should be as apolitical as possible. Members should be appointed for their willingness to serve with consideration of their background experience. I object to: “A newly elected or duly appointed commissioner may, in his or her sole discretion and within 90 days of taking office, choose to replace any member appointed by a predecessor”.
This, in my mind, politicizes the P&Z Commission. The provision “Members may be removed for cause….etc. should be the only reason for removing/replacing a P&Z Commissioner.


Heads Up on the P&Z Commission Changes at tthe Sandoval county Commission  this week March 2 for Sandoval County  6 pm  

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Support Senate Memorial 78 Mimi Stewart' Bill

We could use some help from Bernalillo County residents and non profits. Water protectors are everywhere. We hope that everyone can support Senator Mimi Stewart's Senate Memorial 78, 

and the water protection efforts that will follow
The Water Protection Advisory Board (WPAB) of the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority (ABCWUA) did its job. The WPAB recommended that Albuquerque, Bernalillo County and the ABCWUA adopt oil and gas regulations.  Based on the WPAB letter of recommendation, Senate Memorial 78 advocates for oil and gas regulations in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County. Combined with our efforts in Sandoval County, I believe this is one of New Mexico's best chances to bring water protection to the forefront. This should be a topic of discussion and an important issue in the Albuquerque mayoral campaigns. The incoming mayor will serve on the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority Governing Board and exercise great influence on the future of drinking water for 600,000 users of ABCWUA supplied water. 

It is time to bring Water Protection to the Forefront.

Committee Members

SenatorLinda M. LopezDChair
SenatorJeff SteinbornDVice Chair
SenatorGregory A. BacaRMember
SenatorJacob R. CandelariaDMember
SenatorStuart IngleRMember
SenatorDaniel A. Ivey-SotoDMember
SenatorGerald Ortiz y PinoDMember
SenatorMary Kay PapenDMember
SenatorCliff R. PirtleRMember
SenatorClemente SanchezDMember
SenatorMark MooresRRanking Member
Ask your preferred Mayoral Candidate to support quality water protection regulations. Since most of the ABCWUA drinking water is from the Rio Chama and the Rio Grande drainages, the Water Protection Advisory Board could someday become one of New Mexico's leading drinking water advocates.  All environmental non profits should support this drinking water protection effort by standing for SM 78 and broadcasting to their members the importance of protecting the entire Albuquerque Basin, which is water to nearly a million people.  When it comes to our drinking water, precautionary principles must take precedent. 

Friday, February 17, 2017

Senate Bill 307 oil and gas penalties act needs support

SB 307:  Oil and Gas Powers and Penalties Bill

The problem:  The civil penalties imposed on violators of the Oil and Gas Act have not been increased since 1935. 
Moreover, the agency responsible for enforcement does not have the authority to impose a penalty but instead has to rely on the attorney general to file a lawsuit.
Sen. Richard Martinez is sponsoring SB 307 to make sure that the Oil Conservation Division and the Commission can impose civil penalties on violators of the act, its rules, orders or permits. 
According to Legislative Finance Committee performance reports, the number of spills has increased in recent years.  Yet, according to numerous sources no penaltieshave been reported.
What the bill does:
It clarifies that the civil penalty is not more than $1,000for each day of violation.  
It adds new language authorizing civil penalties of up to $10,000 if the violation is due to an unauthorized discharge of contaminants that pollutes or threatens to pollute water (in accordance with state and federal water quality standards).
It gives the Oil Conservation Division and the Oil Conservation Commission the authority to impose civil penalties after a hearing has taken place. (The current law requires the division to ask the Attorney General to bring a lawsuit against the violator.)
The bill is addressing problems created by bad actors, not the good actors.
In addition:
Criminal sectionThe bill clarifies the criminal penalty section by making it a third degree felony if the person knowingly violates the Act, its rules, orders or permits, which includes making false statements, omitting,destroying or mutilating information on forms, records, accounts or memorandums. (Similar provisions are in the NM Mining Act.)
Annual Reporting requirement: The bill also requires the division to make an annual report to the legislature and the governor, and be made available to the public, regarding the number of violations, the names of the violators, the amount of penalties assessed and collected, the justification for the penalty amount, whether the company is a repeat violator and other related information.
In sum, granting the division the authority to impose penalties, increasing the penalties and requiring an annual report are important steps to achieving the goals of the Compliance Bureau as described in the 2016 Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources annual report.
The Compliance Bureau ensures that activities comply with regulations and do not result in the waste of oil and gas resources and to protect human health and the environment. 

Selected States Comparison of Maximum Civil Penalties for Violations of Oil and Gas Acts
Maximum Civil Penalty
When Maximum Civil Penalty Applied
Max $15,000/day that violation continues
Maximum total fine for violations vary by degree of impact and the type of rule violated, with heightened severity for health and safety rules.
New Mexico
Max $1,000 for each day of continuing violation 
Applies to anyone who knowingly or willfully violates the Oil and Gas Act.
New York
Max $8,000 per violation plus up to $2,000 for each day violation continues.
Applies to violation of Article 23 (Mineral Resources) or any regulation, order or permit condition.
North Dakota
Max $12,000 for each offense and for each day of violation
Applies to any violation of any provision of Chapter 38-08 or any rule, regulation or order of the commission.
Max $2,500-$20,000 per each continuing day of violation
Amount depends on which section of code, rules, permit certificate is violated.  Largest penalty primarily applies to rules to prevent pollution from extraction, storage and injection of brine, oil, natural gas or other fluids that cause damage to public health, safety and environment (water and land).
$25,000 per violation plus $1,000 for each day violation continues (conventional wells) and $75,000 per violation plus $5,000 for each day (unconventional well)
Applies to violations of Title 58 Oil and Gas. In determining the amount, the department shall consider willfulness of the violation, damage or injury to natural resources of this Commonwealth or their uses, endangerment of safety of others, the cost of remedying the harm, savings resulting to the violator as a result of the violation and any other relevant factor.
Max $10,000 for each day violation continues($200,000/day if pipeline safety) 
Amount depends on rule that is violated.  Largest penalty depends on seriousness of violation of the provision, rule, order, permit, license, including hazards to health and safety of public. 

The Oil and Gas Powers and Penalties bill is going to be heard on Tuesday.

Attached is an information flyer for SB 307 and a chart comparing selected states' civil penalties for oil and gas act violations.

The hearing is scheduled 3rd on the agenda for Tuesday in Senate Conservation.  The committee begins at 8:30 but there is a wildlife bill scheduled first on the agenda that is expected to draw a large crowd and take a lot of time.

Earthwork’s Oil and Gas Accountability Project  Contact: Mary Feldblum505-897-1803