You Will Be Livid After Reading This Dahr Jamail Report on NM’s Shameless Failure to Regulate Gas & Oil’s Reckless Abuse

This is a searing report, based upon an extraordinarily well developed piece of investigative journalism, exactly what you should expect from Dahr Jamail. You will be livid with our Governor and her inexcusably ineffective administration for their inaction.

Before we dive into a really important post, a couple of short announcements.

Election page has been updated with key dates for obtaining and mailing in an absentee ballot, along with an update of all four strategies with more info on how you can support out six priority candidates. On Monday, in addition to providing links for this week’s posts, we will publish an election feature of great importance.

Zoominar on Water Quality & Management, Drought & WildFires, Sept 15, 6;30 – 8 pm, click here for info on the panelists and to register. You MUST register to attend.

Retake Conversation on KSFR. Saturday, Sept. 5, 8:30 am – 9:00 am on KSFR 101.1 FM or Streaming Live from Our conversation is with Peter Smith, Chair of Board of KSFR and former Republican Lt. Governor, State Senator, and US Representative from Vermont. From 2005-2007. Peter served as Assistant Director General for Education at UNESCO in Paris, France, leading all the education efforts for the United Nations. From 1995-2005. Peter served as founding president of California State University, Monterey Bay, beginning shortly after the campus’ opening on the site of the former Fort Ord military base in 1994. And from 1991-1995. Peter served as Dean of the Graduate School of Education and Human Development at the George Washington University. At the GOP RNC, he joined Republicans for Biden. Enough was apparently enough. Find out how this Republican felt that he could no longer support the President.

The Governor Needs to Do More, Much More About This Travesty

Over the past months, Retake readers will recall that I have done nothing but praise the Governor and her Administration for her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. I will continue to offer that praise. But fair is fair and Retake has been consistent in criticizing the Governor for being all too cozy with the gas and oil industry. Recall her infamous comment to a NM Oil & Gas Association breakfast that “I work for you” going on to say that if they ever have problems with her administration, to bring it to her attention, because her administrators also work for the industry. Well apparently, her administration takes that commitment a bit too seriously. Of course, any governor is going to meet with major business interests in the state. That is part of the job, but another part of the job is to defend her constituents from abuses from business. Well, it is time to call out the Governor and her administration over its utter failure to regulate or hold accountable the gas and oil industry.

Dahr Jamail is a friend and colleague. He is also an award winning climate catastrophe author with a well-deserved international reputation. When last in Santa Fe, he participated in our second Zoominar back in May, a video of this zoom can be found at the bottom of this post.

On Wednesday, Jamail published a blistering Truthout report shredding Williams Production and Exploration Energy, Inc. (WPX) for a burst pipeline that rained highly toxic produced water on the home of one New Mexican family, on its farm animals and its four four family members: Penny Aucoin, her husband Carl Dee George, their son Gideon and their daughter Skyler.

But Jamail goes well beyond chronicling how this burst of toxic waste has ruined the Aucoin family. His investigation also outlines just how much the NM gas and oil industry is abusing our land, air, water and people, with astounding levels of leakages of produced water and methane. That may not be news for any of you, but by the time you work through this piece, you will be calling and writing our Governor and her key administrators charged with protecting the environment and you. Contact info and speaking points provided. But first: Read ON!

“According to the OCD, there were 1,523 reported spills in New Mexico in 2018, which is roughly one spill every six hours. Already in 2020, 1.6 million gallons of produced waste liquid have been released, according to industry self-reporting. These “spills” and “releases” are not considered a violation of any law, and operators face no punitive consequences.”

From Truthout: “Fracking Company Has Made It Rain Toxic Water Upon New Mexico Without Penalty” by Dahr Jamail
Infrared camera captures methane leaks

No wonder the industry is so wanton in their disregard for the impact of their releases of toxic waste, they know the state will do nothing to hold them accountable. And this disregard is not limited to produced toxic waste.

You will recall that Retake recently published a report, “Trump Rolls Back Methane Regulations as Permian Frackers Flare Without Restraint,” on the shocking levels of methane released in NM that are yet another manifestation of the G&O industry’s criminal neglect of NM’s welfare. Jamail refers to an Environmental Defense Fund study that makes the same point.

“The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) recently released a Permian Basin-wide study on the emissions of methane and other volatile organic compounds. The study found methane releases across the Permian at a rate three times that which was reported nationally by the Environmental Protection Agency. Furthermore, the EDF found a leak rate 15 times higher than the goal set by the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, a group of 10 oil and gas CEOs representing one quarter of the industry’s entire global production.” 

From Truthout: “Fracking Company Has Made It Rain Toxic Water Upon New Mexico Without Penalty” by Dahr Jamail

Jamail then goes on to describe the damage done to the Aucoin family as a result of a burst pipeline spewing toxic produced “water” on their home, with every member of their family suffering different kinds of health problems since their exposure, with their land contaminated, with their animals rendered toxic, with the vet recommending anesthetizing their chickens and informing them they should never grow any food on their land. WPX’s response? An offer to buy them a new chicken coop.

Jamail interviews a WPX representative who pointed out that the family had had health problems prior to the leak. But those health problems are entirely consistent with health problems commonly identified in research as being associated with living in close proximity to fracking operations. And fracking operations are mere yards from their home. So, WPX’ s excuse for not responding to the Aucoin family’s seeking compensation is, in effect, ‘we’d already poisoned these folks. You can’t blame these problems on the leak.’ Jamail’s report goes on to point out that the Aucoin family is hardly alone. WPX has had 89 leaks resulting in over 169,000 gallons of leaked toxic waste since MLG became governor in early 2019. And WPX isn’t just a NM-based poison pill.

“WPX Energy scored near the bottom of the industry in a recent scorecard report published by investors benchmarking 35 companies on their disclosed efforts to mitigate key impacts,” advisory firm Green Century Funds wrote in 2015, “and has faced controversy in the past over allegations that it irreparably contaminated local drinking water in Pennsylvania.”

From Truthout: “Fracking Company Has Made It Rain Toxic Water Upon New Mexico Without Penalty” by Dahr Jamail

But frankly, I’ve long since given up expecting a shred of responsibility, compassion or environmental concern from anyone from the gas and oil industry. WPX’s own website proudly proclaims that they are: “focused on profitably exploiting, developing and growing our oil positions in the Williston Basin in North Dakota and the Permian and San Juan Basins.” There is not much in that statement about protecting the populace that lives around their “profitably exploiting” fun and games.  And expecting the Trump administration to do anything to protect us from anything is pure fantasy. But I do expect our Democratic governor and her appointees to protect us, as they have done so well in relation to COVID. And Jamail saves his most scathing words for them, for their utter lack of any effort to “regulate” the gas and oil industry.

“The NMED, EMNRD and OCD are all obligated to monitor, supervise, regulate, control and enforce against oil and gas pollution. Yet they all have grossly failed their responsibility to do so. None of them ever issued compliance actions, required remediation plans, assessed penalties, suspended permits, or launched civil or criminal actions against WPX or any other bad actors in the oil and gas industry in New Mexico. This means that the government entities and their negligence of their official policy responsibilities have directly caused the harms to Aucoin and her family, as well as depriving them of their rights, which are protected by New Mexico’s laws .”and constitution.”

From Truthout: “Fracking Company Has Made It Rain Toxic Water Upon New Mexico Without Penalty” by Dahr Jamail

And while the MLG administration is fiddling, NM is being destroyed by the gas and oil industry, by its wanton release of methane, by its careless leaking of produced waste, by its uncaring abuse of the people who live throughout the San Juan and Permian Basins, and by its utterly irresponsible consumption of scarce water in our drought starved state.

“Drilling one well required more than 11 million gallons of water per day in 2016, which is enough to fill 17 Olympic-size swimming pools, according to one study. And for every barrel of oil produced, four barrels of toxic “produced water” come with it. “Produced water” presents a dangerous and costly waste issue. According to the NMED, in 2018, New Mexico wells generated 42 billion gallons of this toxic wastewater, which is enough to cover 8,000 football fields with a foot of water every day.”

From Truthout: “Fracking Company Has Made It Rain Toxic Water Upon New Mexico Without Penalty” by Dahr Jamail

I highly recommend your reading the entire Jamail report, as it provides many other examples of egregious plundering of NM by the gas and oil industry, juxtaposed with the complete failure of our Democratic administration to take any kind of action. Plus, Jamail is just a damned good journalist, so it is a good read. Click here to read the full Jamail piece.

Call to Action Time

Below the recording of the Dahr Jamail and Greg Rogers Zoominar, you will find speaking points and contact information. And we ask that you share this post with others.

MLG and her administrators need to hear from us. THIS IS NOT OK. It is time to let our voices be heard before we choke on goddamn methane or drown in produced water, aka poisonous waste.

Speaking Points: When calling any of the people below, be respectful and keep it simple. You do not have to go into great detail. Just voice your concern about what is happening and your disappointment that the state is doing very little to regulate and hold accountable the fracking industry. While many of you will not need speaking points, for those who do:

  • Begin by saying you are a voter, you voted for the Governor and in many respects, you are very happy with her work and the work of her administration, particularly on COVID.
  • But for whatever reason, her administration is doing NOTHING to regulate the gas and oil industry or to hold them accountable.
  • You are appalled at the lack of action from the Governor’s administration in relation to the Aucoin family, but also in their general failure to fine, regulate or terminate leases for gas and oil operators who are bad actors.
  • If there are legal issues that prevent her departments from regulating and fining, then you expect those issues to be addressed legislatively in 2021.
  • If there are funding, staffing and other resource issues limiting our ability to inspect gas & oil industry operations, you expect to have that funding limitation addressed in 2021.
  • Emphasize that you do not call and email often, but that this is egregious and needs to be addressed and that you are not going away and will be tracking action taken or not taken.

If you are emailing, please include a link to the Jamail article and insist that they read it and respond to your email with their thoughts on what was written.

Link to full Dahr Jamail piece.

Administrators whose name and contact info is highlighted in red are top priorities. If you have time, let everyone below know how you feel.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham

Online email submission:
Phone: (505) 476-2200

Chief Legislative Liaison: Victor Reyes.

Oil Conservation Division: Links are to their email addresses

Director, Adrienne Sandoval, 505-476-3646.

Environment Bureau Chief: Jim Griswold (505) 660-1067, Hydrologist and Groundwater Remediations

Environmental Engineers: Carl Chavez (505) 660-7923. Discharge Permits, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES); Point-of-Contact; Refineries; and Underground Injection Control Program QA/QC Officer

Energy, Minerals & Natural Resources Division

Cabinet Secretary, Sarah Cottrell Propst

Deputy Cabinet Secretary, Todd Leahy

Environment Department

James Kenney, Office of the Secretary

Rebecca Roose, Water Protection Division ‐ Director

Bureau Chief: Petroleum Storage: Dana Bahar 505-476-4377 & cell = 505-699-4007.

Joe Godwin: Manager, Prevention Inspection Program 505-699-4006 – cell

Categories: Climate Change, Agriculture, Land Use & Wildlife

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3 replies

  1. Before seeing your post today I have already shared this truth out post with the governor on her Facebook . I have long wondered how Grisham, And crew can survive an election with this kind of action. We knew full well that we needed roads housing regulations for methane and fracking well before any leases Were signed. I’m fortunately it could be due to greed, and mismanagement. They said it was for the schools and where did that go? Now at the cost of clean up and restoration if it’s possible will cost far more

  2. This is what has been happening while everyone worries constantly about coronavirus. I knew that when I saw the Guv’s campaign ad in 2018, standing in front of a refining facility, gleefully declaring that, “New Mexico is open for business!” that we were in trouble. Ironic that she became the first gov. in the past century to close almost all NM businesses (the fracking and nuclear industries were excluded, of course). I only voted for her to keep Pierce out of the Roundhouse.

    Funny how indignant liberals were about Gov. Martinez’s cozy relationship with the gas and oil industry yet ignore Grisham’s. We now also have a natural gas pipeline being constructed right along I-25. Get ready for that highway to be closed periodically due to the leaks that will inevitably occur. If her commitment to public health and safety is real, it should extend to all existential threats, not just coronavirus. This fracking crisis is just one among many that remain hidden from media view; the nuclear industry is at the top of that list too. High praise for Dar Jamail and ROD for maintaining such thorough environmental reporting and keeping it in public view when all others ignore it. I hope there will be something left of New Mexico after our state’s citizens wake up from their CV trance.

    • Good points, Scott, well said. Especially appreciate your inclusion of the NM nuclear industry in your remarks. It is far and away the most toxic, the deadliest issue facing us– past, present, and future.

      The current, largely secret proposal, to vastly expand pit production (nuclear weapon triggers) at LANL, makes it the most gigantic elephant in the room of our state’s politics, and our politicians, and is routinely ignored and suppressed by the media.

      for an update see the Nukewatch statement: Nuclear Watch New Mexico Executive Director Jay Coghlan saying in a statement:

      “It’s past time that our congressional delegation steps in and protects New Mexicans. They should demand that NNSA conduct current studies on expanded plutonium pit production with the opportunity for public comment and hearings as required by the National Environmental Policy Act.”

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