Map shows where NM oil, gas spills occur

CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) – A new website has mapped where oil- and gas-related spills take place in New Mexico, and it shows their numbers have increased in recent years.

The Center for Western Priorities built the online map using years of data gathered by the state Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department’s Oil Conservation Division, the Carlsbad Current-Argus reported Saturday.

The Denver-based, nonpartisan organization monitors spills caused by crude oil, drilling fluids and methane releases, among others, and then shows their locations on the map. It does the same for Colorado.

Spills occur almost twice a day in New Mexico, according to the data. It shows about 470 spills reported in southeastern New Mexico in 2008 jumped to more than 600 in 2013.

Greg Zimmerman, policy director for the group, said the spills show the fallout from so much oil and gas development in the state.

“I think there are some spills that are preventable, and as there is more development, you would think there would be more spills,” he said.

According to the Oil Conservation Division, more than 900 spills were reported in all of New Mexico in 2013. Going back to 2000, there have been more than 10,300 spills. That amounts to 102 million gallons of oil, drilling fluids and other toxic materials.

Wally Drangmeister, New Mexico Oil and Gas Association spokesman, said 900 spills is relatively small when considering there are more than 50,000 producing wells in the state. The spills themselves are not often cause for concern, he added.

“In general many of them are small, and most of the time, (oil and gas companies) are able to capture it in liquid form without an impact on groundwater,” Drangmeister said.

But Zimmerman said the industry could improve when it comes to planning operations.

“We need to make sure that development is not happening in sensitive areas and next to communities and neighborhoods,” Zimmerman said. “We also need to make sure it’s not happening next to surface water.”

Information from: Carlsbad Current-Argus

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