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New Mexico: about 85 percent of oil and gas sites failed to pass safety inspections

Amy Mall

Posted June 17, 2013

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NRDC strongly supports the rights of local governments to protect their citizens from the risks of fracking by managing the siting and operations of oil and gas companies within their borders. Our Community Fracking Defense Project was established to help communities who want to take steps to protect their quality of life.

Is it any wonder that more and more local governments feel they need to take action because the federal government and states are not doing enough to protect human health and the environment? A recent article in the Denver Post outlines some of the most recent community efforts in Colorado.

In New Mexico, according to a news investigation, about 85 percent of 276 oil and gas well sites inspected over the past six weeks failed electrical safety inspections. The good news is that the state carried out the inspections, although they were overdue. We are very concerned that states have too few inspectors to keep on top of this increasingly expanding industry.

The bad news is that the industry seems to think it is above the law and doesn't always have to comply with rules unless someone catches it in the act of violating them. I recently blogged about contamination cases in Colorado and Wyoming where no fines were imposed, even though in one case, benzene, a known carcinogen, was found in an important water source.

Penalties need to be much stronger or the oil and gas industry will continue to have no incentive to abide by the laws.

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Michael BerndtsonJun 17 2013 04:45 PM

Local support is one area where NRDC should really focus its efforts. Or at least distinguish itself from EDF and others taking a top down approach to activism. Since there's this catch-as-catch-can approach to regulation and the US EPA's hands are pretty much tied, somebody with a national presence should step up to help local groups and those intimately affected by all things fracking.

Here's an example. The Illinois group, Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing our Environment (SAFE) - website posted an old story from the LA Times written in 1997 about thousands of abandoned oil wells left open in Southern Illinois. [btw, how they got the acronym SAFE out of that word salad is impressive, but anyway]

Here's the article:

If there's anything that would make a perfect conduit between the New Albany shale formation, the groundwater and the air - its an abandoned oil well left to decay and degrade for over 30 plus years of post operation and maintenance. Even though the article cited 4,000 wells remained unplugged as of 1997 - my guess is there's still about 3,756 still unplugged downstate. And these wells pretty much sit in the heart of the New Albany shale. The state's oil and gas days boomed in the late 1970s and went completely bust in the mid 1980s (resulting in the bankruptcy of Continental Bank of Illinois and many independent oil companies). With Illinois firing up shale fracking soon, this issue should become central to any environmental advocacy group.

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