This bill will be added to Retake Our Democracy’s MUST PASS list. While this moratorium would not stop current fracking operations, it would stop in its tracks all new fracking leases for the next four years. Ironically, right after Sen. Sedillo Lopez’ press conference announcing the bill I heard NM Gas & Oil Association testimony on the wondrous benefits of fracking, disputed in this post.
After meeting with Senator Sedillo Lopez about SB 459, her fracking moratorium bill I attended a House Commerce and Economic Development hearing to testify on behalf of a HB 150 Installment & Small Loan Changes bill, one of our MUST PASS bills. Before the hearing on the bill began, we heard a stunning presentation from the NM Oil & Gas Association. Ryan Flynn, the former Secretary of Energy, Environment and Natural Resources under Gov. Martinez is now the Executive Director of the NM Gas & Oil Association He went on and on about the virtues of the gas and oil industry, claiming that based on all available data NM would only increase its extraction efforts for the next ten years, increasing its revenues, and employing more people. He extolled the NM’s gas and oil industry as the cleanest in the nation and noted how fracking only consumed 1% of NM’s water supply. He was appalled that anyone would even dare to introduce legislation proposing a moratorium on fracking in NM, apparently unaware of this thing called climate change. Since he didn’t introduce any of the negative consequences of fracking, I poked around and in about 30 seconds found a report from Environment New Mexico, with excerpts provided below. For a complete video of the NM Gas & Oil Association presentation, click here.
Impacts of Fracking
Toxic Chemicals and Health
Fracking uses vast quantities of chemicals known to harm human health. According to industry-reported data in the FracFocus database, oil and gas wells fracked across the U.S. between 2005 and 2015 used at least:
- 5 billion pounds of hydrochloric acid, a caustic acid;
- 1.2 billion pounds of petroleum distillates, which can irritate the throat, lungs and eyes; cause dizziness and nausea; and can include toxic and cancer-causing agents; and
- 445 million pounds of methanol, which is suspected of causing birth defects.
- The exact identities of many other chemicals are unknown because they are kept secret as proprietary information.
People living or working nearby can be exposed to these chemicals if they enter drinking water after a spill or if they become airborne.
- A recent analysis by researchers at the Yale School of Public Health identified 157 chemicals used in fracking that are toxic; the toxicity of 781 other fracking chemicals examined by the researchers is unknown.
- A 2014 study by scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory reported that an estimated 10 percent of chemicals used in fracking fluid are known to be toxic to humans or aquatic life.
Wastewater and Drinking Water Supplies
Fracking threatens drinking water supplies. Across the country, fracking wastewater has leaked from retention ponds or escaped from faulty disposal wells, putting drinking water at risk. Wastewater from fracked wells includes not only the toxic chemicals injected into the well but also naturally occurring radioactive materials that can be brought to the surface.
- Fracking wells produced at least 14 billion gallons of wastewater in 2014. Wastewater production data is not available in some of the states with the most wells, including Texas and North Dakota, meaning that the total amount of fracking wastewater produced in the United States is higher than is estimated here.
- Pennsylvania regulators have confirmed at least 260 instances of private well contamination from fracking operations since 2005, a number that is likely a severe underestimate.
- Data from fracking wells in Pennsylvania from 2010 to 2012 show a 6 to 7 percent rate of well failure due to compromised structural integrity.
Fracking requires huge volumes of water for each well – water that is often needed for other uses or to maintain healthy aquatic ecosystems.
- At least 239 billion gallons of water have been used in fracking since 2005, an average of 3 million gallons per well.
- Water used in fracking becomes unsuitable for most uses other than fracking another well.
- Farmers can be particularly impacted by the oil and gas industry’s demand for freshwater, especially in drought-stricken regions of the country. In one water auction in Colorado in 2012, oil and gas companies paid up to $3,300 for an acre-foot of water, as much as 100 times what farmers typically pay.
Methane from fracking operations adds global warming pollution to the atmosphere.
- Bringing new fracked wells into production in 2014 released at least 5.3 billion pounds of methane. That’s equivalent to annual global warming emissions from 22 coal-fired power plants.
- Methane, a global warming pollutant 86 times more powerful than carbon dioxide over the course of 20 years, is released at multiple steps during fracking, including during hydraulic fracturing and well completion, and in the processing and transport of gas to end users.
Destruction of Natural Landscapes
Well pads, new access roads, pipelines and other infrastructure built for fracking turn forests and rural landscapes into industrial zones.
- Infrastructure to support fracking has directly damaged at least 679,000 acres of land since 2005, an area slightly smaller than Yosemite National Park.
- As well pads, roads, pipelines and other gas infrastructure replace forests and farmland, the nation loses wildlife habitat and the remaining wild areas are increasingly fragmented and inhospitable to wildlife. For example, the mule deer population in Wyoming’s Pinedale Mesa declined 40 percent from 2001 to 2015, a period of extensive gas development.
- Well operators are supposed to restore damaged landscapes after drilling operations are complete, but full restoration is nearly impossible, especially as oil and gas producers struggle financially and may lack the resources to fund land restoration.
Other public health threats from fracking include air pollution and earthquakes.
- Air pollution from fracking contributes to the formation of ozone “smog,” which reduces lung function among healthy people, triggers asthma attacks, and has been linked to increases in school absences, hospital visits and premature death. Other air pollutants from fracking and the fossil fuel-fired machinery used in fracking have been linked to cancer and other serious health effects.
- The injection of fracking wastewater into underground wells has been linked to earthquakes in several states. In 2014, residents in the central and eastern U.S. felt 659 earthquakes, compared to an average of just 21 per year from 1973 to 2008, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
NM Gas & Oil Association exec, Ryan Flynn neglected to cite any of the above data.
Four Year Statewide Fracking Ban Proposed: Battle On
Senators Shendo and Sedillo Lopez are introducing a bill that would enact a four- year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing to extract oil and gas from deposits in shale and other rock formations.
After a New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department presentation to the Senate Conservation Committee about the state of fracking in New Mexico, newly appointed NM State Senator Antoinette Sedillo Lopez noted that the industry has moved forward very fast and is lagging behind the department’s ability to inspect wells and enforce regulations. She is asking for an important pause in the current agenda to facilitate necessary conversations, studies and plans to address the gaps in the state’s ability to address the impacts on our air, land, water, and human life. The four-year moratorium will prohibit new permits but will allow existing wells to continue producing revenues for the State. The bill asks relevant agencies to report to the legislature and the governor the actual and potential impact of hydraulic fracturing on the environment, surface water and underground aquifers, health, and tribal governments and lands. Senator Shendo has been concerned about the impact on fracking on tribal lands and the fact that there has been no consultation with the pueblos and tribes.
“The state of New Mexico knows very little about the impact of fracking in our state. Unfortunately, the Martinez administration starved the state agencies that could study and regulate fracking. A pause will protect the aquifers being threatened by fracking now,” said legislative sponsor Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, adding, “Our communities are already bearing the brunt of the health and safety impacts that come with fracking. The laws and regulations in place now are not protecting people, our water, our land, or our climate. The oil reserves will still be there in four years. We have a constitutional responsibility to protect the health and safety of our people, our beautiful land and our pure water. We need time to get this right and keep our communities healthy and safe.”
- Moratoriums are common-sense, effective, and perfectly legal. Over 400 cities and municipalities in 20 states have passed local resolutions. Three states have enacted statewide moratoriums.https://localprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Fracking-Bans-and-Moratoriums.pdf
- Communities are already experiencing negative health impacts. Over 1200 peer-reviewed papers now confirm the health risks associated with fracking https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/the-harms-of- fracking-new-report-details-increased-risks-of-asthma-birth-defects-and-cancer- 126996/
- Samuel Sage, Community Services Coordinator for the Counselor Chapter of the Navajo Nation, testified to this.” Since 2014, we have been overrun by oil and gas companies….people are complaining about the foul, smelly air. Our community members started complaining about respiratory problems. That has increased.1 The cancer rate within our community has gone up….”
- The Albuquerque Basin, one of only four active rift zones in the world, is uniquely susceptible to groundwater contamination from fracking. We cannot allow the main drinking water source for our state to become polluted. https://youtu.be/uzE8zS0zViMVideo Presentation from Geologist Don Phillips on the dangers of fracking in the Middle Rio Grande Basin.
This bill will certainly face fierce opposition from the gas and oil industries as without a moratorium or serious regulation, the gas and oil industry enjoys what amounts to a blank check to exploit and spoil our land. A four year hiatus will afford the state an opportunity to assess the damage being done from unchecked fracking operations throughout NM an to establish a means for the state to monitor and regulate any new leases for fracking. We will be calling on our members to show up big time for this bill. Gas & oil will fill the hearing rooms with paid lobbyists with disingenuous threats and misinformation. We need to be there representing the people and sharing the truth.
Paul & Roxanne