The diverse organizations and sectors—labor unions, indigenous communities, NGOs, mining companies and downstream purchasers of minerals—that form the Steering Committee for the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) often get asked why we sit at this table across from other stakeholders with whom we don’t always see eye to eye. Given that we frequently see issues from very different perspectives, why do we choose to engage in this challenging, time-consuming work?
For the last five days our attorney and experts and I sat in a hearing room in Santa Fe because the oil and gas industry wants to gut New Mexico’s common sense Pit Rule.
The Pit Rule was developed with extensive input from oil and gas industry representatives, ranchers and conservation organizations in 2007 to protect New Mexico’s water, soil and public health from toxic drilling and fracking wastes.
Governor Martinez vowed to repeal the Pit Rule during her campaign and now the New Mexico Oil & Gas Association thinks it has the votes on the oil commission to do the deal.
When the landman comes knocking, it s tempting to open the door wide. The promises made can be beguiling: fast cash, payments for years to come, and hardly any change on your property. Just sign up now
But harsh reality can set in fast. Maybe it s a road built right behind the house or through a crop field. Or barrels of toxic chemicals stored next to a drinking well. Perhaps the wastewater pond wasn t fenced, so thirsty livestock got sick. And when the royalty check arrives, it s far smaller than expected.
Across the Marcellus Shale region and beyond, there s abundant evidence that a rush to drill without strong regulations causes environmental and health problems. Less well-known is how the rush to lease in the absence of information, legal advice, and safeguards is harming many landowners, as well as their neighbors and communities.
For more than a decade, OGAP has worked to inform property owners about their rights and what to consider before signing a lease most recently at landowner workshops in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Yesterday, EARTHWORKS launched the Texas Oil and Gas Accountability Project a new watchdog to keep an eye on the drilling industry in the Barnett Shale of north central Texas.Texas OGAP also released DRILL RIGHT TEXAS, a guide to gas extraction best practices.
Like its cousin, the Marcellus Shale gas play that underlies most of the north central Appalachian Mountains including New York and Pennsylvania, the Barnett Shale contains vast reserves of natural gas that recently became economic to extract.
The reason it's now economic: a relatively new drilling technique called horizontal hydraulic fracturing.
You may have heard that natural gas is better for the environment than other fossil fuels. When it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, that is true certainly when compared to coal. But and it's a big but when it comes to local impacts, natural gas extraction/processing/transport as currently practiced is not something you'd wish on your worst enemy, or their drinking water.
Yesterday, New Mexico state legislator Thomas Taylor -- acting on behalf of the oil & gas drilling industry -- introduced a bill that would rescind the hard-won regulations protecting water and public health from toxic oil and gas waste pits.
The 2008 rules require lining all oil & gas waste pits. They also prohibit waste pits entirely when groundwater is within 50 feet of the surface.
"Closed-loop" or "pitless" systems actually save drillers money -- on the order of 3% per well -- according to testimony before the New Mexico Oil Conservation Commission.
Hopefully the New Mexico legislature hasn't forgotten its responsibility to its citizens and their health, or the drilling industry's history of contaminated groundwater.
If not, this bill will die and quick and well-deserved death.
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