(Santa Fe, NM) – Representative Gail Chasey’s House Bill 286, aiming to update 78-year old penalties for pollution of New Mexico’s drought-stricken water supply by the oil and gas industry, passed out of the House Judiciary Committee on a 9 to 7 vote today. The bill now heads for the floor of the House of Representatives.

“Contamination of our state’s already severely limited water sources would be devastating for generations of New Mexicans to come across our state,” said the bill’s sponsor, Representative Gail Chasey. “Polluters should be held accountable, but with penalties that haven’t been updated in 78 years, common sense safeguards are nearly non-existent.”

Hearings along the bill’s path have stirred the participation of a myriad of oil and gas industry lobbyists in opposition. Oil and gas companies are some of the most profitable companies in the world. Advocates of the legislation consider our state’s water sources the vital blood stream upon which agriculture, industries and communities across New Mexico depend.

“Now more than ever, we need to ensure that common sense safeguards are in place to protect New Mexico’s groundwater from contamination from oil and gas drilling,” said CVNM Executive Director Sandy Buffett. “The Oil and Gas Act is desperately in need of modernization to reflect current realities.”

If enacted by the New Mexico State Legislature and signed by the Governor, HB 286 would affect only polluting operators, not those that follow laws and properly protect the state’s groundwater. Current provisions under the law allow an operator to be fined only $1,000 a day for a violation. In 1935, the $1,000 fine was equivalent to the price of 2,500 barrels of oil. Today, the EIA estimates $1,000 to be the cost of producing roughly 10-20 barrels. The $10,000 penalty conforms for the penalty provisions in similar states, including Texas and Arizona.

For more information about the effort to update the 1935 Oil and Gas Act’s penalties and protect New Mexico’s water, please visit www.protectnmwater.org or contact Liliana Castillo of Conservation Voters New Mexico at 575-219-9619.

Contact: Liliana Castillo, 505-992-8683