蘑菇影院

Fight over constitutional provisions to guard against oil, gas pollution moves ahead in New Mexico

FILE - 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 outside the state First District Court in Santa Fe, N.M., May 10, 2023. On Monday, June 10, 2024, a New Mexico judge cleared the way for a landmark lawsuit to proceed that alleges the state has failed to meet its constitutional obligations for protecting against oil and gas pollution. Environmental groups and Native Americans who live near oil wells in the No. 2 producing state in the U.S. initially filed the case in 2023. (蘑菇影院 Photo/Morgan Lee, File)

FILE - Attorney Gail Evans, of the Center for Biological Diversity鈥檚 Climate Law Institute, speaks about pollution from oil and natural gas development and frustration with state oversight of the industry outside the state First District Court in Santa Fe, N.M., May 10, 2023. On Monday, June 10, 2024, a New Mexico judge cleared the way for a landmark lawsuit to proceed that alleges the state has failed to meet its constitutional obligations for protecting against oil and gas pollution. Environmental groups and Native Americans who live near oil wells in the No. 2 producing state in the U.S. initially filed the case in 2023. (蘑菇影院 Photo/Morgan Lee, File)

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SANTA FE, N.M. (蘑菇影院) 鈥 A New Mexico judge cleared the way Monday for a landmark lawsuit to proceed that alleges the state has failed to meet its constitutional obligations for protecting against oil and gas pollution.

Environmental groups and Native Americans who live near oil wells in the No. 2 producing state in the U.S. initially filed the case in 2023. They are seeking compliance with a 鈥減ollution control clause鈥 in the .

Judge Matthew Wilson denied a motion by the state to dismiss the case, saying there needs to be more scrutiny of New Mexico鈥檚 responsibilities under the constitution and that granting the state鈥檚 request would short-circuit that examination.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs celebrated the judge鈥檚 ruling, saying it will allow residents of New Mexico who have been living with the consequences of more oil and gas development in opposite corners of the state to have their day in court.

鈥淭he case can go forward on the undisputed facts about the extent of the pollution and the extent of the state鈥檚 failure to control that pollution,鈥 said Gail Evans, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.

She said plaintiffs have cleared a critical hurdle in the judicial process to bring forward evidence of constitutional violations.

鈥淚鈥檓 confident the court will definitively enforce the constitutional protection of our state鈥檚 beautiful and healthful environment on behalf of the plaintiffs and every resident of New Mexico,鈥 Evans said.

Lujan Grisham鈥檚 administration has in recent years adopted rule changes aimed at limiting emissions from the oil and gas industry. However, environmental groups have raised concerns that enforcement isn鈥檛 keeping pace despite fines being levied against out-of-state energy companies and major settlements being inked to address air pollution.

A spokesman for Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Monday evening that the administration was still reviewing the judge鈥檚 decision.

鈥淲e will continue to vigorously defend these claims,鈥 said Michael Coleman, communications director to the governor.

Attorneys for the Legislature did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Two major business associations 鈥 the New Mexico Chamber of Commerce and the Independent Petroleum Producers Association of New Mexico 鈥 have formally intervened in court proceedings, unsuccessfully urging dismissal of the lawsuit.

The administration and lawmakers also are facing a backlash over their push to develop rules that would regulate the treatment and reuse of oil industry fracking water.

Environmental advocates including the group New Energy Economy on Monday documented what it said were undisclosed financial ties between a member of the state鈥檚 Water Quality Control Commission and a privately oil and natural gas production company based in Farmington, New Mexico. Advocates urged the official鈥檚 disqualification from rulemaking proceedings on the treatment and reuse of fracking water. A complaint also was filed with the State Ethics Commission.

According to the lawsuit, oil production in New Mexico鈥檚 portion of the Permian Basin 鈥 one of the largest oilfields in the world 鈥 has increased nearly tenfold since 2010, leading to a surge in pollution. In northwestern New Mexico, lead plaintiff Mario Atencio, who is Navajo, said his family鈥檚 lands are at risk from spills at well and processing sites within the San Juan Basin.