Since January 1, 2017, there have been 1,738 spills, releases, fires, and other disasters reported by the industry. That’s more than three and a half incidents daily for the past year and four months.
All of these incidents are concentrated in the major oil and gas producing regions of New Mexico, including the Greater Chaco region of northwestern New Mexico and the Greater Carlsbad Caverns region of southeastern New Mexico.
The incidents include oil spills, gas leaks, broken pipelines, fires, equipment failures, and more. The causes include vandalism, human error, natural disasters, corrosion, and just overall sloppiness.
While the oil and gas industry in New Mexico and other western states continues to claim that their operation safe, the underlying truth couldn’t be more at odds with their assertions.
Companies may try to write off these incidents as minor, trivial, or out of their control, but the reality is no other industry so regularly and intensively flouts its own safety and environmental safeguards. It’s important to note that every single one of these incidents represents a violation of state and sometimes federal rules. Whether or not the incidents are minor, the fact that they happen so frequently underscores that industry is shirking its responsibilities.
And while state regulators continue to claim that these incidents have not led to any widespread contamination, the fact is that they happen all the time means that it’s not a matter of if, but when, widespread contamination occurs. Quite literally, the oil and gas industry is playing with fire. Sadly, our air, our water, and our public lands will only lose in the end.
Spills, releases, and other incidents should be the exception. Instead, they’re the norm in New Mexico. This isn’t a sign of a safe or clean oil and gas industry. It’s a sign of an industry run amok and reckless and they need to be reined in.