Commentary: Today New Mexico Senate Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to table SB 86 after Chairman Joseph Cervantes (D-31) unprecedentedly silenced proponents of the bill from giving public comment in committee.
Allowing bill sponsor Senator Sedillo Lopez (D-16) 10 minutes to introduce her legislation and expert witnesses, Senate Judiciary Chairman Cervantes allowed 10 minutes for oil and gas industry lobbyists to present an “expert witness” panel while failing to provide proponents of the bill the same courtesy.
Elected officials and representatives from diverse constituent groups including the New Mexico Acequia Association, Green Chamber of Commerce, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, Youth United for Climate Crisis Action, as well as those already impacted directly from the mismanagement of “produced water” were among those who were silenced from providing public comment.
Instead, the Committee heard from the oil and gas panel who presented rebuttal testimony to the bill, fear mongering with claims that regulating oil and gas waste would be an effective ban on all oil and gas activities.
For every barrel of oil produced, industry produces 4-7 times as much toxic fracking waste euphemistically known as “produced water.” Right now, produced water is leaking, spilling, and exploding daily across New Mexico contaminating land, air, and water. Corrosion, human error, overflow, and equipment failure are the most common reasons for spills. SB 86 offered necessary reforms to 2019’s HB 546 Produced Water Act in order to manage produced water in a manner that truly protects public health, the environment, and freshwater resources.
“They shut off the voices of the people, and only heard the voices of the industry.” - Penny Aucoin, victim of wastewater pipeline break.
“It’s pretty clear who has a seat at the table in New Mexico. The oil and gas industry had full time to spew their lies like they spew their toxic waste and the public was given zero recourse to address the committee. It’s a shame members of the committee only heard the industry's side of the story.” - Lucas Herndon, energy and policy director of Progress Now.
“The veil was ripped off today: there is a stranglehold by oil and gas corporations even when people’s health and welfare is at stake. Senate Judiciary barred New Mexicans from even talking - were they so afraid of letting the truth of their pain be heard. People are being poisoned by the O&G industry’s toxic wastewater, the legislators could have halted this abuse, and instead gave industry a pass because of their undue influence at every level of government.” - Mariel Nanasi, executive director of New Energy Economy.
“We know we have problems with the use of precious fresh water and polluted water spills in the oil and gas fields. When will public officials listen to the people and take moral responsibility to care for community health and sacred land, water and air rather than turning the Land of Enchantment into a Sacrifice Zone?” - Joan Brown, osf, Executive Director of NM Interfaith Power and Light
“To say that oil and gas has a stranglehold on our state legislature is a severe understatement. Today the Senate Judiciary Committee told New Mexicans that concerns over water, health, and clean air are not even worth air time in committee. Every day that the legislature delays in enacting meaningful oil and gas waste regulation is another day of leaks, spills, ane explosions contaminating New Mexico.” - Rebecca Sobel, senior climate and energy campaigner for WildEarth Guardians
“The tabling of this bill is a serious injustice to all who value clean water to live in our state. It was offensive to observe the blatant prejudice of not allowing for proponents of the bill to be allowed to give testimony alongside those who were against it. It is hard enough for community voices to be heard due to the privilege and access required to participate, but to have to also endure further inequity when granted access is very disheartening. Our voices will not be silenced by oil and gas. Our inherent and intergenerational love and care for our living waters will endure and will prevail.” - Beata Tsosie, Tewa Women United
“It was unfortunate to see both the democrats and republicans on Senate Judiciary vote to table SB 86. What needs to be emphasized and understood is that we don’t have a law on the books regulating oil and gas industry waste in N.M. Our priority should be communities who are most impacted by this waste and not industry. Such a travesty.” - Gail Evans, NM Environmental Law Center