Energy Exchange

Clean water regulators at the brink — Changes to the Clean Water Act spell trouble for New Mexico

Earlier this year, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its proposal to dismantle significant portions of the Clean Water Act. Historic federal protections for some rivers and streams and wetlands will no longer be there — essentially allowing polluters to dump untold amounts of waste into our waterways unless state provisions stop them.

The decision could generate unknown repercussions to waterways across the country, and perhaps no state is more vulnerable than New Mexico.

The reason? New Mexico has very few surface water protections of its own, which means without federal standards, the state is facing an uphill battle to develop the tools it needs in order to step in and prevent polluters from contaminating water.

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Also posted in Natural Gas, New Mexico, produced water / Comments are closed

Shining new light on the toxicity of chemicals in produced water

In the United States, onshore oil and gas extraction operations generate nearly a trillion gallons of produced water annually. It is the largest waste stream associated with upstream development of petroleum hydrocarbons.

As EDF has written in numerous posts, this wastewater from oil and gas wells can be complex and toxic. In addition to the chemicals companies use during drilling and extraction, it can contain a wide range of potentially harmful material that already existed in the ground, and can be many times saltier than seawater. There’s a lot of it, too. Some wells produce up to 10 times as much wastewater as they do oil.

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Posted in produced water / Comments are closed

New Mexico legislation marks new focus on improved oil and gas oversight under Gov. Lujan Grisham

By Jon Goldstein and Nichole Saunders

When New Mexico legislators adjourned last Saturday, they had a long list of accomplishments for the first session under Gov. Lujan Grisham’s executive leadership. Near the top of that list is a bill that, once signed, will mark the first major legislative reform for the state’s oil and gas industry in over a decade.

House Bill 546 has significant implications for how the state oversees its large and growing oil and gas industry. This includes restoring crucial powers to the state’s main oil and gas regulator and enabling it to protect the state’s air and water resources from oil and gas pollution, as well as clarifying how New Mexico manages the massive volume of oilfield wastewater, or “produced water,” generated by operators. These reforms, championed by Sen. Richard Martinez, Rep. Nathan Small and Rep. Matthew McQueen will begin to deliver oil and gas policy that New Mexicans can be proud of.

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Also posted in Natural Gas, New Mexico, produced water / Tagged , | Comments are closed

Trump’s EPA may weaken restrictions on disposal of oilfield wastewater — here’s what you need to know

Many Americans are aware that we are experiencing a major energy boom. But what many folks may not realize is that with this increase in oil and gas, also comes an increase in waste – specifically wastewater. In fact, for every barrel of oil produced wells can generate 10 times as much chemical-laden wastewater. All told, the industry produces over 900 billion gallons of wastewater a year, and we know very little about the chemicals in it.

Traditionally, companies have pumped this wastewater deep underground, but the growing volume is creating new challenges– leading many to wonder whether there may be different options for managing or reusing it. One of those options is treatment and discharge to rivers or streams.

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Also posted in Water / Tagged | Comments are closed

How oil & gas states did (and did not) protect land and water in 2018

By Adam Peltz & Nichole Saunders

Keeping an eye on what happens with domestic oil and gas regulation is a bit like herding cats. We’ve seen encouraging progress on air quality issues related to oil and gas, but an equally critical front that’s seen major action is protection of our land and water resources.

More than 30 states actively regulate oil and gas development but their practices and rules vary significantly. Add the recent attention around industry’s impact on local communities – from earthquakes and the risk of spills to increased traffic and local air pollution – and it’s easy to miss the big trends that dominated regulatory agendas in 2018.

EDF devotes a significant amount of time tracking this activity, and 2018 was a busy year. Over a dozen states completed rule updates and other types of improvements this year on a variety of topics.

Here are the big things we saw in 2018.

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Also posted in Aliso Canyon, California, Colorado, Methane, Natural Gas, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, produced water, State, Texas, Water, Wyoming / Tagged , , | Comments are closed

EPA-New Mexico wastewater report is a conversation starter, not the final word

This blog was co-authored by Colin Leyden and Nichole Saunders

The Environmental Protection Agency and the outgoing Martinez administration in New Mexico have produced a draft white paper and solicited comments on potential ways to reuse or manage the growing volume of wastewater produced by the state’s oil and gas industry.

While the paper is a helpful outline of current produced water policy, New Mexico decision-makers should view it as a conversation starter and not the final word. When it comes to answering questions about whether the oil and gas industry’s wastewater can be safely reused for other purposes, like food crops, livestock or, as the white paper even suggests, drinking water, there are a number of other serious factors to be considered.

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Also posted in General, Natural Gas, New Mexico, produced water, Water / Tagged , , , | Comments are closed