Carlsbad Current Argus

The State of New Mexico finalized changes to its produced water regulations on the oil and gas industry after months of adjustments and debate between state regulator, environmentalists and oil and gas industry leaders.

The Oil Conservation Commission unanimously approved of the changes during a Thursday special meeting without discussion following a work session last month that included a two days of testimony from environmental groups and industry leaders.

Workers take in a safety briefing at Devon Energy's Todd 2 water recycling facility,

Workers take in a safety briefing at Devon Energy’s Todd 2 water recycling facility, Sept. 10, 2019 near Carlsbad.
Adrian Hedden | Current-Argus

The new rules sought to clarify the Oil Conservation Division’s (OCD), an arm of New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department (EMNRD), role in regulating the management of produced water within the industry while the New Mexico Environment Department would oversee any future uses of the water outside of the industry in sectors such as agriculture.

For every barrel of oil – about 42 gallons – about four to 10 barrels of produced water is generated.

But recent efforts by the State of New Mexico to research ways to treat produced water to standards that could potentially meet requirements for non-oil-and-gas uses such as agriculture were met with criticism from environmental groups who said the water should be treated as waste and would never be safe for reuse outside of oil and gas.

During a Thursday hearing before the New Mexico Legislature’s Water and Natural Resources Committee, Daniel Timmons, attorney with the WildEarth Guardians argued in written testimony that the approved regulations lacked an understanding of ingredients of produced water and called for the State to further study the fluid before drafting regulations.

“What we know about produced water is scary enough, but even more troubling is what we don’t know,” Timmons said. “Because the toxicity of the vast majority of chemicals detected in produced water has simply never been studied.”

He pointed to the New Mexico Produced Water Act, passed by lawmakers in 2019 to strengthen produced water regulations and reduce its impact on the environment, and argued any new regulations should further the goal of protecting public health and the environment.

“WildEarth Guardians appreciates the challenge posed by the vast amounts of produced water generated by the state’s oil and gas industry,” Timmons said.

“And we appreciate the legislature’s attempt – through the Produced Water Act – to promote conservation of fresh water through recycling and reuse within the oil and gas industry, and to do so in a manner that’s protective of public health, the environment, and fresh water.”

For the rest of the story and pictures: Carlsbad Current Argus

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