CARLSBAD, N.M. (KRQE) – Over the last few years, per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as ‘forever chemicals,’ have garnered national attention for their potential health impacts. Now, some of New Mexico’s lawmakers are grappling with the idea that New Mexico’s vast oil and gas industry may be responsible for PFAS contamination.

In a Radioactive and Hazardous Materials Committee meeting on Tuesday, August 10, Kayley Shoup, a Carlsbad resident and community organizer with Citizens Caring for the Future, told lawmakers about PFAS in New Mexico and a proposed rulemaking effort to require oil and gas companies to be more transparent about the chemicals they use.

Citizens Caring for the Future points to data from the Physicians for Social Responsibility, which says that between 2013 and 2022, oil and gas companies put at least 9,000 pounds of PFAS into the ground during fracking operations. But the full scope of the potential problem isn’t known because state law allows oil and gas companies to keep certain fracking fluid components secret, Citizens Caring for the Future explains.

Lawmakers in the committee expressed concern over PFAS contamination but weren’t in complete agreement about how to handle it. The idea of requiring oil and gas companies to disclose details on the fluids they use drew debate from lawmakers.

“Everyone wants clean water, clean air. We all agree on that,” Rep. John Block (R-Otero) said. But “when you get to those corporations and say, ‘well you have no trade secrets anymore,’ then there’s no marketplace anymore, because anyone can steal anyone else’s information.”

“The way I see it,” Block said, is that “the last place we want to go is with the government regulating more things, because I’m sure many people agree with me that the government is the last thing that you trust.”

Kayley Shoup with Citizens Caring for the Future responded that government regulation may be necessary. “I do trust governments to regulate this more than the corporations,” Shoup said.

Sen. Jeff Steinborn (D-Doña Ana) said that simply requiring greater disclosure from oil and gas companies could benefit the state.

“The issue of requiring greater disclosure for fracking fluids is really important,” Sen. Jeff Steinborn (D-Doña Ana) said. “The answers are known as to what’s going in the water. We just can’t get at it.” The state is “lagging” in terms of disclosure, he said.

Other lawmakers expressed concern that the state needs more data. “We don’t have the exact numbers of what exactly the ramifications are,” Sen. Nancy Rodriguez (D-Santa Fe) said. “It would be great to be able to have the information that we need, and that’s something that we need to work on.” But Rodriguez concluded that: “We [do] have enough data that is clear and very convincing that, in fact, we’re around quite a bit – a lot – of PFAS, and it’s incumbent upon each and every one of us to do something about it.”

Shoup with Citizens Caring for the Future urged the lawmakers to back efforts to increase oil and gas transparency rules. The idea to have the state’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission adopt rules to address PFAS has was brought to Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office earlier this year.

A spokesperson for the state’s Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department confirmed that there have been talks about a potential rule to address PFAS in the oil and gas industry. While not many details have been set yet, there may be a rulemaking hearing early next year.