Commentary: Oil and gas companies in New Mexico were responsible for 1,477 reported oil, gas, and other chemical spills in 2015, according to the New Mexico Toxic Release Tracker released today by the Center for Western Priorities. The new analysis, which summarizes public spills data from theNew Mexico Oil Conservation Division, finds that oil and gas companies reported an average of four spills per day in 2015.
“Even in the face of falling oil prices and little interest in new drilling, companies still managed to spill oil and other chemicals onto New Mexico’s land, water and air four times every day last year,” said Jesse Prentice-Dunn, Advocacy Director at the Center for Western Priorities. “While drilling for oil and natural gas will continue to be an important part of New Mexico’s economy, these spills are another reminder of the risks associated with oil and gas development.”
The 2015 Toxic Release Tracker finds that reported spills from oil and gas production have increased 87 percent over the last five years. In 2015, wastewater laden with salt and chemicals, known as produced water, was the most common type of spill—companies reported 749 releases of produced water—followed by oil spills, which were reported 551 times in 2015. According to the new analysis, an average of 2,443 gallons of crude oil and 11,550 gallons of produced water were spilled each day.
Companies reported 363 releases of natural gas, primarily comprised of methane, in 2015, a 38 percent increase from the year before. Emissions from the natural gas released in 2015 is roughly equivalent to driving 11,000 cars for a year. States such as Colorado, along with the U.S. government, have recently moved forward with efforts to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas operations.
“When oil prices inevitably go back up, the industry will certainly renew its interest in New Mexico. In the meantime, our leaders need to do everything in their power to reduce toxic spills and protect children across New Mexico from harmful air pollution.” continued Prentice-Dunn.