Let the people’s voice be heard
By Gwen Lachelt
May 17, 2012
Over the last four days, the oil and gas industry (New Mexico Oil & Gas Association) has presented experts to prove to the state of New Mexico that the Pit Rule is unnecessary.
One expert blathered on yesterday for 8 hours without presenting technical information or modeling demonstrating that pits do or don’t pollute. But when a member of the public presented his testimony on why New Mexico needs to keep the Pit Rule to ensure responsible development, he was cut off when a buzzer rang. Testimony from members of the public is limited to a mere 5 minutes.
I have been asked to summarize the oil and gas industry’s expert testimony since Monday so here goes:
“Toxic drilling pits just don’t pollute (even with torn liners), just trust us on that, so give us a green light to bury our drilling and fracking wastes anywhere we want.”
According to data from the state of New Mexico:
Between the mid-1980s and 2003, the New Mexico Environmental Bureau recorded 6,700 cases of pits causing soil and water contamination in that state. In 2005, the New Mexico Oil Conservation Division released data showing that close to 400 incidents of groundwater contamination had been documented from oil and gas pits.
- Roger C. Anderson, Environmental Bureau Chief, New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department – letter to OGAP October 23, 2003.
But since the Pit Rule was adopted in 2008, there have been no reported incidents of contamination from pits. Today, the oil and gas industry is using this information to say they don’t need the Pit Rule or any standards whatsoever.
The industry’s last expert is on the stand today. For over two hours he presented powerpoint slide after powerpoint slide arguing that the chlorides in pit contents don’t migrate upwards or downwards, so just leave those wastes right there, they won’t hurt a fly. (Chlorides are typically used to measure pollution movement from pits because they occur in high concentrations and move easily in most soils).
The expert repeatedly tells the three Oil Conservation Commissioner members that he’s giving them a quiz and their test papers will be in the back of the room. In a touching moment the expert remembered the year he and his wife were married and shed a tear.
The extraneous chatter from the experts makes one wonder if the industry is taking this hearing seriously or if they think gutting the rule is a done deal.
Hopefully our experts will be on the stand this afternoon debunking this mess.
Some of the ranchers in attendance today drove 7 hours to Santa Fe from southeastern New Mexico to testify in support of the Pit Rule. It's just a little tragic that they have 5 minutes to testify when many of them are third and fourth generation ranchers who have had oil and gas development on their land for 50 years.
"In my 50 years of ranching in the oil patch of Lea County, no other policy, other than the rule against salt water disposal, has been such a plus for air, water and soil protection as the closed-loop Pit Rule." - Carl Johnson