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CONSERVATION GROUPS ASK STATE SUPREME COURT: INVALIDATE EVISCERATION OF OIL & GAS PIT RULE

CONTACTS:

Bruce Baizel, Executive Director, Earthworks’ Oil and Gas Accountability Project, (970) 799-3552

Judy Calman, Staff Attorney, New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, (505) 843-8696

Eric Jantz, Staff Attorney, New Mexico Environmental Law Center (505) 750-3027

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Friday, March 25, 2016

WATER GROUPS ASK STATE SUPREME COURT:

INVALIDATE EVISCERATION OF OIL & GAS PIT RULE

“...the Oil Conservation Commission forgot who they worked for. It isn’t the oil and gas industry.”

Bruce Baizel, Executive Director, Earthworks’ OGAP

SANTA FE, NM — Yesterday, groups working to protect New Mexico’s water resources and wildlife asked the state Supreme Court to review the Martinez Administration’s “Pit Rule”. The Rule governs the storage and disposal of wastes at oil and gas drilling pits in New Mexico.

The petition for a writ of certiorari was filed by the New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) on behalf of Earthworks’ Oil and Gas Accountability Project and the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. The public interest groups have been working on the issue since before the Pit Rule was first adopted in 2008, after a lengthy public process. The petition asks the state’s highest court to review a decision handed down by the state Court of Appeals in February upholding the amended Pit Rule.

In 2013, the Martinez-appointed Oil Conservation Commission, despite widespread public opposition, eliminated nearly every substantive provision on the Pit Rule at the behest of the oil and gas industry. See Pit Rule Fact Sheet.

In their petition, the groups ask for the Supreme Court to set aside the 2013 amendments that eviscerated the 2008 Pit Rule, based on the legal arguments that:

  • The Commission did not have authority to weaken the Pit Rule for purely economic reasons benefiting the oil and gas industry.
  • The Commission failed to explain the reasons for its abrupt change of policy in 2013, despite the Commissioners hearing nearly identical testimony as presented to the Commissioners who adopted the 2008 Pit Rule.
  • The Oil Conservation Commission violated the Separation of Powers Doctrine when it amended the Pit Rule while it was under appeal in state district court.

“Pits” store liquid and solid wastes created by drilling for oil and gas; they are located at or near the oil or gas wells. As written in 2008, the New Mexico Pit Rule was designed to protect soil and groundwater from toxic contaminants including arsenic, benzene, chromium and lead (see Pit Pollution: A Backgrounder on the Issues, with a New Mexico Case Study by the Earthworks for a list of contaminants commonly found in pits). As amended in 2013, the Pit Rule does little to protect our state’s water, public health or wildlife.

“The state of New Mexico is legally and by definition bound to serve all New Mexicans,” said Earthworks’ Oil and Gas Accountability Project Director Bruce Baizel. He continued, “In eviscerating the Pit Rule, the Oil Conservation Commission forgot who they worked for. It isn’t the oil and gas industry.”

"All New Mexicans, including the corporate entities that benefit from our state's natural resources, share a responsibility to be good citizens for our state's water and public lands," says Judy Calman, Staff Attorney at the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. "That's why we're asking the Supreme Court to revert to the 2008 Pit Rule, which was protective of water, people and wildlife.” 

“There are serious legal flaws in the decision handed down by the state Court of Appeals when it upheld the Rule,” says Eric Jantz, Staff Attorney with the New Mexico Environmental Law Center. “The Supreme Court now has an excellent opportunity to send a strong message that politics don’t belong in rulemakings, and to affirm that our state’s regulatory decision-makers do not have the authority to change rules solely for the economic benefit of an industry to the detriment of other New Mexicans.”

The Supreme Court will notify the petitioners if it will review the case. See NMELC case page.

INTERVIEWS ARE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

For more than 25 years Earthworks’ Oil and Gas Accountability Project has been protecting communities and the environment from the negative impacts of resource extraction.

The New Mexico Environmental Law Center is a not-for-profit public-interest law firm working to protect the communities and environment of New Mexico. It was founded in 1987, and is based in Santa Fe, NM.

The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance is a 501(c)(3) non profit organization dedicated to the protection, restoration, and continued enjoyment of New Mexico's wild lands and wilderness areas.

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5th International Mexican Gray Wolf Stamp Released

For Immediate Release
April 6,2015

Contact: Tisha Broska
505-843-8696, ext. 104

NM Wilderness Alliance launches 5th international Mexican gray wolf collector’s stamp

This year’s stamp—chosen from more than 50 entries—inspired by Albuquerque native wolf

 

2015 Wolf StampAlbuquerque—April 6, 2015— The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance just released its 5th international collector’s stamp commemorating the Mexican gray wolf.

Each year, artists from across the country submit their artwork to the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, who organizes the contest.

This year’s stamp design, inspired by a former Albuquerque resident Gypsy the wolf, was chosen from more than 50 entries.

Gypsy, a female Mexican gray wolf, was born in 2004 at the Rio Grande Zoo in Albuquerque, as part of the Species Survival Plan and has been a resident of Wolf Haven International in Washington since 2005.

Says artist Skie Bender, “I’ve always been fond of Gypsy for her gregarious albeit shy and curious energy.”

The Mexican Wolf Conservation Stamp is a framing-quality conservation stamp. Native to the Southwest, the Mexican gray wolf—or lobo—was reintroduced to the wild more than 17 years ago through a captive breeding program, yet still struggles to survive with only 109 left in the wild. All proceeds from the stamp benefit Mexican gray wolf conservation and education efforts.

To purchase the 2015 stamp as well as previous years’ stamps, visit nmwild.org/purchasewolfstamp

About the artist: Bender is Education Outreach Specialist at Wolf Haven International, a nonprofit sanctuary for captive-born wolves, located in the small farming community of Tenino, Wash. Bender exhibits her artwork throughout the west and Pacific Northwest. She connects her love for animals with her passion for art by donating proceeds of her paintings to various animal rescue organizations.

Week of celebrations will mark Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks’ 1st Anniversary

For Immediate Release
May 16, 2015

Community events begin with May 15 kick-off;
Sen. Heinrich cookout on May 16

(LAS CRUCES) – Local businesses, civic groups and community leaders have planned a week of events and celebrations to mark the first anniversary of the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument (OMDP), which was established by President Obama on May 21, 2014.

The week of celebration begins May 15 with a kick-off event, 5:30 p.m. at the Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum, sponsored by the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce and the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance.

In addition to the events, local businesses will be offering OMDP-related discounts and special offers throughout the week.

All events are open to the public. Visit here for a complete listing of all events.

In addition, local business owners have been featured in a series of short videos and profiles about what the monument means to them. These profiles and videos can be found here. Profiled businesses are also available for media interviews. Contact Carrie Hamblen at 575-496-5242 for details.

Organ Mountains Desert Peaks Anniversary Celebrations for May 15-17:

Friday, May 15th                                        5:30pm to 8pm                       

OMDP Kick-off Celebration at the Farm and Ranch Museum. Featuring a tribal blessing, the unveiling of the OMDP Achievement badge for the Girl Scouts of the Desert Southwest, entertainment, and booths and information related to the monument.  The event will feature a “class picture” taken of all of the groups and individuals who worked to help establish the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.

Event co-sponsored by:  Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce and the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance

Location:  New Mexico Farm and Ranch Museum, 4100 Dripping Springs Road, Las Cruces, NM 88011

Cost:  Free

 

Saturday, May 16th                                   8am to noon                                     

OMDP daytime activities at Dripping Springs Natural Area.  Features a bird walk, meet the Hermit of La Cueva, a hike to the Eugene Van Patten Ruins, and an expert talk about the geology of the monument.  The event ends with a special 15th birthday celebration of National Conservation Lands which will include cake and hands-on activities for kids of all ages.

Sponsored by:  Bureau of Land Management

Location:  Dripping Springs Natural Area, Dripping Springs Road.

Cost:  No fees charged May 16th and 17th at Dripping Springs or Aguirre Springs

 

Saturday, May 16th                                   5pm to 9pm                                      

OMDP Big Game Cookout at the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park featuring Sen. Heinrich.  Join Senator Martin Heinrich for elk tacos cooked on discos, local beer from High Desert Brewing, live music, and more.

Sponsored by:  New Mexico Wildlife Federation    

Location:  Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park, 5000 Calle Del Norte, Mesilla, NM 88046

Cost:  $5.00 Day use fee may apply

 

Sunday, May 17th                                      9am to 10am                                              

OMDP Interfaith Service at Dripping Springs.  Religious leaders from the community will come together to host an interfaith service at the La Cueva amphitheater.

Sponsored by:  NM CAFé

Location:  Dripping Springs Natural Area, Dripping Springs Road.

Cost:  No fees charged May 16th and 17th at Dripping Springs or Aguirre Springs

 

For a full listing of all the week’s events, please visit:

http://locallascruces.com/omdpweek/

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Land Transfer Bill Killed in Santa Fe

For Immediate Release
March 5, 2015

NM Wilderness Alliance turns attention to legislation that would oppose new wilderness around the Pecos

Albuquerque—March 5, 2015—NM HB 291 sailed through its first committee two weeks ago, but a strong push from the conservation community helped table this bill on Monday.

Conservationists were heard loud and clear by the New Mexico House Judiciary Committee, who Monday voted 8-4 to table HB 291, which would have created a study commission to look into the transfer of public lands to the state.

Now, the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance (NM Wild) turns its attention to Senate Memorial 40, which opposes any new wilderness in the Pecos. The organization also contests HB 457, which would make oil and gas New Mexico’s official state resource. Both Senate Memorial 40 and HB 457 will be heard in committee Friday, March 6.

On Monday before the vote, NM Wild’s members from across the state rallied to send hundreds of messages to members of the committee saying that this legislation was a bad idea.

“Because of our members efforts in calling and e-mailing representatives, the bill was voted down by both political parties, and was a win for New Mexico and the rest of the country,” said Mark Allison, executive director of NM Wild.

Aside from being unconstitutional, HB 291 was unnecessary and unwanted by New Mexicans.

“Had this bill been passed, New Mexico would have spent years wasting valuable time and resources pursuing an idea which would undoubtedly be litigated relentlessly by both sides, and which would, in the end, be ruled unconstitutional by a Federal court,” said NM Wild Staff Attorney Judy Calman.

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The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance (NM Wild) is a non-profit 501(C)(3), grassroots, environmental organization dedicated to the protection, restoration, and continued enjoyment of New Mexico’s wildlands and Wilderness areas. The primary goal of the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance is to ensure the protection and restoration of all remaining wild lands in New Mexico through administrative designations, federal Wilderness designation, and ongoing stewardship.

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