NM Judge Hears First Pit Rule Challenge

New Mexico – A state district judge has heard oral arguments in a challenge against a controversial set of regulations that govern New Mexico oil and natural gas producers.

Judge Barbara Vigil of Santa Fe spent Friday afternoon hearing the parties' arguments, but it could be February before she makes a decision.

Environmentalists argue the so-called pit rule protects human health and the environment from oilfield waste.

Critics have blamed the rule in part for a slowdown in drilling activity in New Mexico and the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in state revenues.

The rule was adopted by state regulators in 2008. Among other things, it restricts the use of pits for onsite waste disposal at drilling sites.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.