The State Land Office of New Mexico is enforcing its clean up efforts on oil and gas sites in one of its major hydrocarbon production basins, the Permian, as many leases expire. Those efforts also include environmental restoration to ensure the oilfields are left at optimal conditions.
State Land Office announced enhanced review efforts during an online press conference last Thursday. The reviews are tougher on those sites that pose an immediate environmental concern.
New Mexico officials stated that the initiative has already paid in 11 square miles fully restored; also, in nine oil wells plunged within the Permian Basin area in southeastern New Mexico.
On top of this, the agency has filed nine lawsuits on clean-up compliance against leaseholders to hold them accountable for the site’s condition. Lawsuits are mainly focused on oil and gas developments, saltwater disposal, and well operators.
Stephanie Garcia Richard, State Land Commissioner, said, quoted by the Chron: “this is about accountability and enforcement; really taking of the requirements that are in the legal contract that leaseholders have with us; we want to ensure they are properly adhered to it.”
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New Mexico includes tech in clean-up efforts
During the conference, other efforts were discussed, as the reviewing of the adequacy of the requirements in the contract, especially those regarding environmental restoration efforts.
“We are also embarking on this new world of high-res satellite imagery to allow us to look at trespass, spills, and other harms, on our 13 million acres of state trust land,” said Garcia Richard.
“We are using all of the tools and data at our disposal in order to hold companies to account in hopes of encouraging industry to do what is right by this land and what is right for our environment. The majority of operators are acting responsibly but for those that aren’t or haven’t, we are being proactive in order to ensure they return the land back to its original state for the benefit of the citizens of New Mexico and for the beneficiary institutions that we support,” she concluded.
The announced efforts are part of a bigger picture concerning legal and environmental practices in New Mexico on oil and gas leases and operators. From through 2020, legal battles have been held trying to stop more leases in the area.
In mid-August, a federal judge declared that the Bureau of Land Management didn’t violate the federal law when approved leases in New Mexico. “BLM sufficiently analyzed how these leases affect the local and regional environment, and its conclusion that the impact was not significant was not arbitrary and capricious,” he ruled.