New Mexico Laws
This section includes links to New Mexico statutes, regulations, guidelines, and policies related to oil and gas surface operations.
Consistent with the New Mexico Constitution, the development of oil and gas in New Mexico is governed primarily by the New Mexico Oil and Gas Act (N.M. Stat. § 70-2-1–38) and related statutory provisions, including the Surface Owners Protection Act (§ 70-12-1–10), one of the nation’s most comprehensive landowner protection acts. The New Mexico Oil Conservation Division (OCD) is the state agency responsible for issuing regulations for oil and gas development (19 N.M.A.C. § 15.1 et seq.), handling new drill permits, and ensuring industry compliance with state-wide rules and statutes.
The Air Quality Control Act (N.M. Stat. § 74-2-1–22) and the Water Quality Act (N.M. Stat. § 74-6-1–16), both administered through the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), are also critical in regulating environmental impacts of oil and gas development. The OCD, along with other environmental and natural resources agencies, also issues various guidelines and user-friendly handbooks to assist regulated industries in understanding and complying with OCD regulations.
For more detailed information and links on New Mexico law, see the following.
New Mexico Constitution
The New Mexico Constitution includes an environmental protection provision, providing that:
"The protection of the state’s beautiful and healthful environment is …of fundamental importance to the public interest, health, safety, and the general welfare. The legislature shall provide for control of pollution and control of despoilment of the air, water, and other natural resources of this state, consistent with the use and development of these resources for the maximum benefit of the people." (N.M. Const. art. XX, § 21).
To this end, various statutory and regulatory provisions are in place to govern oil and gas development and to protect air, water, and general environmental quality in New Mexico.
New Mexico Oil and Gas Statutes
General laws governing oil and gas development in New Mexico can be found in Chapter 70 Oil and Gas of the New Mexico Statutes at http://statelaws.findlaw.com/new-mexico-law.html (click on "New Mexico Statutes and Court Rules," then click on "Statutory Chapters," then select "Chapter 70").
Statutes of particular relevance in Chapter 70 include:
Oil and Gas Act (N.M. Stat. § 70-2-1–38) – The Oil and Gas Act creates and vests authority in the New Mexico Oil Conservation Division to regulate oil and gas development throughout the state, gather well production data, handle drilling permit applications and permitting procedures, enforce state-wide rules and statutes, and ensure proper restoration of abandoned wells.
Surface Owners Protection Act (N.M. Stat. § 70-12-1–10) – The Surface Owners Protection Act is a comprehensive landowner protection act, requiring oil and gas industry operators to compensate a landowner for property damage caused by oil and gas operations. The Act requires operators to provide the landowner with detailed descriptions of proposed operations so that the landowner can effectively evaluate the impacts of the operations on his or her property.
Landowner’s Guide to the New Mexico Surface Owners Protection Act – The Landowner’s Guide is a step-by-step handbook detailing what the law does for surface owners and how they can put the law to work for them.
New Mexico Oil and Gas Regulations
The Oil Conservation Division (OCD) issues state-wide rules and regulations to govern the development of oil and gas in New Mexico. Current OCD rules, along with proposed rule changes, newly adopted rules, and an explanation of the rule-making process, can be found on the "Rules" page of OCD’s website
The OCD regulations can also be found in the New Mexico Administrative Code. Sections of the Code that are of particular relevance (ie. they contain environmental provisions or BMP provisions) include:
19 N.M.A.C. § 15.2 – General Provisions for Oil and Gas Operations – includes general environmental provisions for water and wildlife relating to pit construction
19 N.M.A.C. § 15.25 – Plugging and Abandonment of Wells – provides for the proper plugging and abandonment of wells to protect fresh water, public health, and the environment
19 N.M.A.C. § 15.7 – Forms and Reports – includes drilling application and permit requirements, required reports, and necessary forms
19 N.M.A.C. § 15.17 – Pit Rule – includes permit requirements, design and construction requirements, and operational requirements aimed at protecting the environment:
19 N.M.A.C. §15.36 – Surface Waste Management Facilities – regulates the disposal of oil field waste and the construction, operation, and closure of surface waste management facilities. Includes permit requirements and environmental regulations (water contamination, wildlife, etc.), and requires proposal of BMP plans to ensure protection of freshwater, public health, safety, and the environment.
19 N.M.A.C. § 2.100.23 – Surety to Protect Surface Purchaser and Lessee – Waivers – establishes bond requirements for oil and gas operators.
New Mexico Oil and Gas Policy and Guidance
The following is a collection of guidelines, policy statements, and handbooks issued by the Oil Conservation Division and other New Mexico state agencies aimed at increasing understanding of and compliance with New Mexico’s oil and gas laws and regulations.
Oil Conservation Division Enforcement Guidelines – The Enforcement Guidelines are a collection of enforcement tools employed by OCD to assist OCD Districts and Bureaus in improving enforcement of statutes, rules, and orders governing oil and gas operations in New Mexico. Also assists regulated industries understand OCD’s enforcement procedures and rationale with the aim of increasing voluntary compliance with the statutory and regulatory scheme.
Oil Conservation Division Environmental Handbook – The Handbook includes ground water standards, surface waste management facility requirements, discharge plan guidelines, spill prevention and cleanup guidelines, pit and below grade tank guidelines, underground injection control guidelines, etc..
2006 Annual Natural Resources Report – Oil and Gas Division – The 2006 general report on oil and gas development in New Mexico includes OCD environmental protection measures, accomplishments and initiatives, and community involvement.
Permit Requirements for Energy and Minerals in New Mexico – This guidebook compiled by the Mining and Minerals Division of the New Mexico Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Department summarizes the permits that are required for energy and mineral resource exploration, development, production, and reclamation in New Mexico. It is intended for private developers and interest groups, as well as regulatory officials of federal, state, and local government.
Pollution Prevention Pocket Guide for the New Mexico Oil and Gas Industry – The Pocket Guide is a quick lookup reference for common oil and gas pollution prevention and waste management practices. The Pocket Guide is a supplement to the Pollution Prevention/Best Management Practices Manual which can be downloaded from the "Publications" page of the OCD’s website.
New Mexico Department of Game and Fish – Oil and Gas Development Guidelines 2007 – The 2007 Guidelines include wildlife and habitat conservation guidelines, including general statewide recommendations regarding habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation, erosion, and water quality. The document also includes species-specific impact statements along with mitigation recommendations.
New Mexico Air Quality Statutes and Regulations
Air Quality Control Act (N.M. Stat. § 74-2-1–22) – contains general air quality and air pollution control laws aimed at maintaining national ambient air quality standards and preventing and abating air pollution. Rules and regulations consistent with the implementation of the Air Quality Act are promulgated by the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board and enforced by the Air Quality Bureau of the New Mexico Environment Department. Current air quality regulations can be found in the New Mexico Administrative Code or on the Air Quality Bureau’s website via a link to the Administrative Code. Sections of the Code that are of particular relevance to oil and gas development include:
20 N.M.A.C. § 2.35 – Natural Gas Processing Plant – Sulfur – establishes sulfur emissions standards for natural gas processing plants
20 N.M.A.C. § 2.36 – Petroleum Refinery – Sulfur – establishes sulfur emissions standards for petroleum refineries
20 N.M.A.C. § 2.37 – Petroleum Processing Facilities – includes measures to minimize emissions from petroleum and natural gas processing facilities
20 N.M.A.C. § 2.70 – Operating Permits – establishes the application process and the requirements for obtaining operating permits
20 N.M.A.C. § 2.87 – Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reporting – establishes requirements for the annual reporting of greenhouse gas emissions
The Air Quality Bureau’s website also contains information about regulation proposals, compliance and enforcement, and the permitting process required for industries that emit air pollutants.
New Mexico Water Quality Statutes and Regulations
Water Quality Act (N.M. Stat. § 74-6-1–16) – established the New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission, the agency responsible for enforcement of the Water Quality Act, implementation of a comprehensive water quality management program, adoption of water quality standards, and promulgation of state-wide regulations to prevent and abate water pollution. Current water quality regulations can be found in the New Mexico Administrative Code or on the Commission’s website via a link to the Code under "Regulations". Sections of the Code that are of particular relevance to oil and gas development include:
20 N.M.A.C. § 6.2 – Ground and Surface Water Protection – establishes industry discharge requirements, describes standards for contaminant concentrations in ground water and surface water, and establishes industry permitting and monitoring procedures
20 N.M.A.C. § 6.3 – Voluntary Remediation – provides for the expeditious, voluntary cleanup of contaminated properties in a manner that is protective of human health and the environment and the promotion of their redevelopment and productive use
20 N.M.A.C. § 6.4 – Standards for Interstate and Intrastate Surface Waters – provides that contaminants resulting from activities, such as industry, will not be permitted to lower the quality of surface waters below that required for the protection and propagation of fish, shellfish, and wildlife where practicable
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