(Santa Fe, NM) – A bill that would help protect New Mexico’s drought-threatened water supply from oil and gas contamination cleared its first hurdle in the Legislature. House Bill 286 Oil and Gas Financial Assurance, sponsored by Representative Gail Chasey, updates fines in the 1935 Oil and Gas Act that are so low, the Act has basically become a permit to pollute.

The House Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted 6-5 along party lines on Wednesday morning in favor of House Bill 286. If passed, the bill would modernize the Act in many ways. It would update penalties for polluting operators for the first time since 1935. Under the Water Quality Act, water contamination is penalized with a maximum $10,000 fine. Under the Oil and Gas Act, the maximum is a $1,000 fine. The bill would also update the financial assurance statute, which was last amended in 1978.

“Our generation has a responsibility to our kids and grandkids to protect our water resources today, so they will be there for the growing communities and economies of tomorrow,” said Sandy Buffett, Conservation Voters New Mexico Executive Director. “We are encouraged that this legislation to hold polluters accountable is making progressing.”

The measure must clear House Judiciary Committee before reaching the 70-member House for a vote. It also requires Senate approval. The next committee hearing has not yet been scheduled.

The bill ensures that common sense safeguards are in place to protect New Mexico’s precious groundwater from oil and gas drilling contamination.

Conservation Voters New Mexico, a nonpartisan, non-profit 501(c)(4) organization, works to protect New Mexico’s natural environment and our cherished way of life. Our mission is to make sensible conservation policies a top priority for elected officials, political candidates, and voters across the state.

Contact: Liliana Castillo, 505-992-8683