Fracking by the Numbers

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Sanders Moore

New Report from Environment New Mexico Research and Policy Center First to Quantify Damage Done by Gas Drilling

Environment New Mexico Research & Policy Center

Albuquerque, N.M. — Two-thirds of New Mexico is still in moderate to extreme drought, despite the recent rains and floods. At the same time, a new report calculates the toll of this dirty drilling on our environment, including 1.3 billion gallons of freshwater used since 2005. The Environment New Mexico Research & Policy Center report “Fracking by the Numbers” is the first of its kind to measure the footprint of fracking in New Mexico to date.

“The numbers don’t lie—fracking has taken a dirty and destructive toll on our environment. If fracking continues unchecked, these numbers will only get more dire,” said Sanders Moore, director of Environment New Mexico. “Our water supplies are too precious to waste on fracking.”

After seeing firsthand the effects of fracking on his livelihood, Gilbert Armenta, a rancher near Farmington, said, “there is no glory in these [gas] wells.” He emphasized the need to keep our water available for farming, ranching, and drinking—rather than fracking.

The “Fracking by the Numbers” report measured other key indicators of fracking threats in New Mexico, including:

  • 3 billion gallons of toxic wastewater generated in 2012,
  • 9,810 tons of air pollution produced in one year,
  • 1.3 billion gallons of fresh water used since 2005,
  • 8,900 acres of land degraded since 2005,
  • 1.7 million tons of global warming pollution since 2005.

The report’s data comes a few months after the New Mexico Oil and Gas Commission rolled back regulations that protected our groundwater from fracking waste. The “pit rule” required that oil and gas companies line waste pits with synthetic liner or use a closed container for the waste. Prior to being enacted in 2008, there were more than 400 cases of contamination from oil and gas waste; after enactment, there were zero.

Otero Mesa sits above a freshwater aquifer that could be a source of drinking water in the future.

“It would be disastrous to frack on Otero Mesa, primarily because of the complexities of the large aquifers,” said state Rep. Nate Cote. “For the small amount of gas assumed to be under Otero Mesa, fracking would be a very dangerous gamble and would probably end up polluting much of the more valuable resource in that area, water. We need to hold strong against such activity on the Otero Mesa, one of our last pristine lands in New Mexico with its native plants and animals and archeological sites.”

“The bottom line is this: the numbers on fracking add up to an environmental nightmare,” said Moore. “For public health and our environment, we need to put a stop to fracking.”

On the federal level, last month the Obama administration received more than a million comments urging much stronger protections from fracking for national forests and national parks. In addition, Rep. Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania (D-Scranton) has introduced the CLEANER Act (H.R. 2825)—a bill to close the loophole exempting oil and gas waste from the nation’s hazardous waste law.

“The data from today’s report shows that our politicians in Santa Fe are not doing enough to protect us from this dirty drilling,” said Moore. “It’s time for Washington to step in; they can start by keeping fracking out of our forests and closing the loophole exempting toxic fracking waste from our nation’s hazardous waste law.”