Jump In Oil Industry Spills Raises Questions

Oct 1, 2015

The volume of reported spills from the oil industry in New Mexico jumped by 61 percent in one year. The increase was disproportionate to the increase in what was actually pumped out of the ground. That data is raising questions for environmental groups.

The state Oil Conservation Division said that producers are using new technology that brings more oil and waste to the surface, which could explain the surge in the number of spills.

But Bruce Baizel with the Oil and Gas Accountability Project doesn’t know what sort of new technology the regulators are talking about because, from what he's seen, the industry has been using the same tech for the past six or seven years.

“I’m drawing a blank, I’m not thinking of anything that has changed in the way they are drilling in the shales,” Baizel said. “If it’s true then maybe they ought to slow down so they figure out how to use it better, so they have fewer spills.”

The state did not answer multiple requests by deadline to explain what the new technology is but did say that all 1,853 spills from fiscal year 2015 have to be cleaned up.

To see reported oil and gas spill data from the past decade, click here

Correction: An earlier version of this story reported that the 61 percent increase in spills was of waste from oil and gas industries in New Mexico. That increase was in all spills (including oil spills, not just waste spills) in the oil industry in New Mexico. We regret the error.