New Mexico plan to create fracking wastewater reserve faces opposition

Jan 24, 2024

Opposition is growing to a proposal from New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham to use state funding to create a reserve of fracking wastewater. First announced last December, the plan calls for the state to purchase treated wastewater that could then be available to businesses and industries that can use brackish water. New Mexico’s Environment Department Secretary James Kenney described the initiative as an effort to attract water-intensive industries to the state. Hydrogen production, for example, requires large amounts of water, and Lujan Grisham is interested in developing New Mexico’s hydrogen industry.

Lujan Grisham is asking the state legislature to invest $500 million from the state’s Severance Tax Permanent Fund to finance the wastewater acquisitions, and Kenney appeared in front of the state Senate Finance Committee earlier this week to make the administration’s case for the proposal. By creating a reserve of treated wastewater, the proposal aims to reduce pressure on freshwater sources while attracting water-reliant industries. “The strategic water supply is a concept … to create less reliance on our freshwater and preserve freshwater resources,” Kenney said.

But opponents of the plan question the need for the state to play a role, characterizing the proposal as a “giveaway” to the oil and gas industry. “It’s intended to help oil and gas producers, particularly in the Permian Basin, to resolve their enormous problem with wastewater disposal and allow for continued extraction,” said Mariel Nanasi, executive director of New Energy Economy. The state legislature has until February 15th, when its current session ends, to decide whether to appropriate funding. In the meantime, the Environment Department has already issued a request for information and envisions soliciting proposals and making selections as early as the end of this year.

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Quote of the day

There are so many reasons why this mine doesn’t belong where it is. And the fact that it is allowed to operate is a stark example of the weaknesses in our regulatory system.”

—Amber Reimondo, Grand Canyon Trust, The Guardian

Picture This

Just 45 miles southeast of Tucson, Arizona, you’ll find more than 45,000 acres of rolling grasslands and woodlands filled with oak-studded hills and lush riparian corridors. 🌳 This is Las Cienegas National Conservation Area. Not only is this area home to unique and rare vegetative communities (including five of the rarest habitat types in the American Southwest), but it also served as a set for several films including Red River, Hombre, and Winchester 73! 🎥
📸 Pronghorn walk through the snow at sunrise in Las Cienegas National Conservation Area, Bureau of Land Management – Arizona; Artist in Residence Alan Nyiri.

Feature image: Oil and gas production in New Mexico, BLM New Mexico