Controversial proposed oil and gas bill changes pass first committee

Attorney Gail Evans of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute speaks about pollution from oil and natural gas development and frustration with state oversight of the industry in May 2023 outside First District Court in Santa Fe.A bill that would make the most significant changes in decades to a nearly 90-year-old state fossil fuel law stirred a lengthy and heated discussion among lawmakers about increasing regulation on an industry that generates roughly 40% of New Mexico’s tax revenue.

The House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee voted 6-5 Thursday, mostly along party lines, to advance a bill that has drawn staunch opposition from the industry and its advocates, who say it’s a regulatory attack that will drive smaller operators from the state or out of business.It would eliminate the cap on penalties imposed on rule breakers and increase the maximum bonding amounts that drillers pay upfront as insurance to $10 million from the current $250,000.



The House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee voted 6-5 Thursday to move forward a bill that would make changes to the nearly 90-year-old Oil and Gas Act.Most oil companies decry how the bill would raise bonding rates for drillers and remove the cap on fines for violators, saying that could drive smaller operators out of businesses.

Environmentalists were upset that measures had been removed to require oil wells be set back a half-mile from homes, schools and businesses.The bill will head to the House Judiciary Committee. If it passes there, it will go to the House floor, where a majority vote will be required to move it to the Senate.