Data show steady increase in Colorado, Wyoming spills, spike in New Mexico methane releases
Aaron Weiss, Deputy Director
Center for Western Priorities
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 27, 2020
DENVER—A new report from the Center for Western Priorities found that in 2019, oil and gas companies reported nearly 3,000 drilling-related spills in the Mountain West’s three top producing states. In Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming, companies reported a total of 2,811 spills, releasing 23,600 barrels of crude oil and 170,223 barrels of produced water—an average of 2,716 gallons of crude oil and 19,587 gallons of produced water per day.
This report is the latest addition to the Center for Western Priorities’ ongoing tracking of oil and gas-related spills in the Mountain West. Colorado and New Mexico make spill information public and Wyoming provided the information by request. The Center for Western Priorities obtained 2019 data from each of these states and quantified what materials were spilled and which operators were responsible in order to better inform the public on drilling impacts.
“With their ‘energy dominance’ agenda, the Trump administration is trying to ramp up drilling across the West. Our analysis shows the continued impact of drilling on our land, water, and communities,” said Jesse Prentice-Dunn, Policy Director at the Center for Western Priorities. “With nearly eight oil and gas spills reported a day in these three states, there is clearly a need for sustained enforcement of public health and environmental safeguards throughout the drilling process.”
Key statistics from the Center for Western Priorities’ analysis:
- In Colorado, oil and gas companies reported 636 spills in 2019, a 7 percent increase from the year prior and a 58 percent increase since 2012. Last year companies reported releases totaling 28,507 barrels of produced water and 1,998 barrels of oil within the state, more than double the 12,841 barrels of produced water and 926 barrels of oil reported spilled in 2018.
- In New Mexico, companies reported 1,352 spills in 2019, an 11 percent decrease from the year prior. Despite the decline in the number of reported spills, reported volumes of methane and produced water increased significantly. Reported natural gas leaks released 812 million cubic feet of methane in 2019, more than three times as much as in 2018. That is the equivalent of the annual emissions of 9,457 cars, or burning over 49 million pounds of coal.
- In Wyoming, oil and gas companies reported 823 spills in 2019, a 15 percent increase from the year prior and a 31 percent increase since 2015. Last year companies reported releases totaling 39,653 barrels of produced water and 6,687 barrels of oil within the state, compared to the 70,189 barrels of produced water and 6,502 barrels of oil reported spilled in 2018.
- In Colorado, over 60 percent of reported spills (398) were within 1,500 feet of a building, 47 percent (297) were within 1,000 feet of surface water, and 81 percent (517) were within a mile of a water well.
- In New Mexico, reported spills have increased by 45 percent over the past seven years, from 934 spills to 1,352 spills. This increase is concentrated in two counties—Lea and Eddy—that lie in the Permian Basin, which accounted for 87 percent of New Mexico’s reported spills last year.
- In Wyoming, reported spills were dispersed throughout the state, with only three counties not experiencing any spills. Campbell and Converse counties reported the most spills, with 162 and 173, respectively.
For more information, visit westernpriorities.org. To speak with an expert on public lands, contact Aaron Weiss at 720-279-0019 or email@example.com. Sign up for Look West to get daily public lands and energy news sent to your inbox.