SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – On Wednesday, multiple groups gathered outside the First Judicial District Court in Santa Fe. A lawsuit against the State of New Mexico and its leaders was announced, accusing them of failing to address oil and gas pollution. 

The groups said oil production in New Mexico’s Permian Basin, one of the largest oilfields in the world, has increased nearly tenfold since 2010, leading to a surge of devastating air, water, and climate pollution. 

“For too long, our communities have suffered the devastating harms of this pollution. So, today, this morning, we filed a landmark lawsuit to demand that the State of New Mexico live up to its constitutional duty to control pollution,” said Youth United for Climate Crisis Action (YUCCA) Policy Lead Jonathan Juarez. 

The group behind the lawsuit includes a coalition of Indigenous peoples, youth, frontline community members, and environmental groups. They’re suing the state, the governor, the state legislature, and other state agencies, claiming they’re violating a pollution control clause in the state constitution. They said the clause mandates that the state prevent the despoilment of New Mexico’s air, water, and natural resources. 

“We have a pollution crisis in the state that’s being generated by the massive amounts of oil and gas production that’s going on in our state and the state has a constitutional duty to control pollution and they’re not living up to that duty,” said Senior Attorney Gail Evans with the Center for Biological Diversity. 

Plaintiffs said the Chaco Canyon and Carlsbad areas have been the most affected by the oil and gas industry. They claimed fracking has been especially harmful to their limited freshwater resources and waste spills have contaminated their soil. 

“For future generations, we have to protect the water, and we already know we’re in a mega-drought and certain industries like the oil and gas industry are contaminating water resources,” stated Lawsuit Plaintiff Mario Atencio. 

The defendants are demanding the state suspend any additional permitting of oil and gas wells until they have come into compliance with its constitutional duties. They’re also asking for treatment of the byproduct waste of oil and gas extraction. 

The governor’s office sent out a statement. 

“This administration is proud of its record on the environment, including when it comes to regulating the state’s oil and gas industry. Frankly, this is a misguided lawsuit that will only serve to distract the state from conducting additional work on environment and climate solutions and from enforcing the nationally leading regulations this administration fought hard to get on the books.”