EARTHWORKS

The Public’s Role Under Attack in New Mexico

Gwen Lachelt's avatar
By Gwen Lachelt

August 29, 2012

In what can only be defined as industry’s fear of the truth coming to light – that pits have contaminated water and soil in New Mexico and that their proposed rollbacks will lead to further contamination – industry attorneys and Jami Bailey, OCC Chairperson - fought tooth and nail yesterday to prevent OGAP’s expert witness from testifying.

New Mexico Pit Rule Hearing, Part III

Yesterday, the New Mexico Oil Conservation Commission (OCC) resumed the hearing on the oil and gas industry’s proposal to gut the Pit Rule. OGAP’s expert witness, Kathy Martin, Professional Engineer, was on center stage to provide rebuttal testimony challenging industry’s assertion that repealing critical protections in the Pit Rule won’t harm New Mexico’s water and public health.

If industry gets its wish it will pave the way for effectively unregulated Frack Lakes and the beginning of what could become the most environmentally destructive era in New Mexico history.

Blatant disregard for public input and dismissive of women (that’s so 20th Century Madam Chairperson)

The qualifications of OGAP’s expert Kathy Martin (who has a BS in Petroleum Engineering and an MS in Civil Engineering, and has been admitted as an expert in numerous proceedings in over a dozen states in environmental engineering with specific expertise in surface impoundments, waste storage facilities, groundwater pollution control and contaminant transport and fate) were viciously attacked.

Despite ironclad qualifications, Jami Bailey stubbornly ignored Ms. Martin’s credentials by stating “We will give your testimony the value that it earns.” Really? And she didn’t once question the qualifications of industry employees who were admitted as experts in earlier hearings this spring and summer – who testified that rolling back critical protections in the Pit Rule won’t harm New Mexico’s water and public health? These supposed “experts’” admitted that the only “research” done on the issues on which they testified was done in preparation for the Pit Rule repeal hearings.  Testimony that was not backed up with sound science.

After more than an hour of industry objections, Martin was finally allowed to provide her testimony. The upshot? Industry’s proposal to gut the Pit Rule and allow enormous Frack lakes (without any meaningful leak detection requirements or design specifications) and onsite burial of wastes with increased concentrations of contaminants (50 times more benzene) threaten water quality and soil.

In yet more theatrics, one industry attorney practically came out of his seat when Martin stated that higher allowable concentrations of benzene, a known carcinogen, will move much more quickly through buried drilling and fracking wastes.

“SHE’S NOT A TOXICOLOGIST!” SHE CAN’T SAY THAT BENZENE IS A CARCINOGEN! Don’t we all know that benzene is a carcinogen?

Bailey even stated after Martin’s testimony that the OCC heard nothing that refuted industry computer modeling that unregulated Frack lakes pose no threat. Commissioner Balch even went so far as to invent protections in industry’s proposal that don’t exist – such as leak detection and a protective second liner under the Frack lake. Good idea but it’s not in the proposed rule.

In a long list of objections – and quite ironically - industry fought admittance of OCD information (available online) of pits that caused pollution prior to the current rule -which was adopted in July 2008. That is, pits with liners that leaked and caused pollution.

If industry is so enamored with the fact that there haven’t been any reported incidents of pits contaminating water and soil prior to the Pit Rule, why do they want to repeal it?

Today, industry is on the stand providing rebuttal testimony to our rebuttal testimony.

The final Pit Rule decision is slated for September 24.

Stay tuned.

Tagged with: pit rule, new mexico

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