SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Oil and gas is a big moneymaker in New Mexico. With decades of drilling comes the inevitable prospect of abandoned or unused wells. Now, a couple of hundred wells have been plugged.
The wells were capped as part of the Accountability and Enforcement Program, created by the Commissioner of Public Lands, Stephanie Garcia Richard, in 2020. The program works to ensure that oil and gas companies complete well cleanup as required by state law.
“Our Accountability and Enforcement program keeps plugging away, compelling companies to pick up the messes they create on state lands and ensuring New Mexico’s taxpayers aren’t stuck with the bill,” Commissioner Garcia Richard said in a press release. “In just a few years this program has proven that we can require companies to clean up after themselves and still deliver billions of dollars in record revenues for our schools and other institutions.”
After identifying abandoned wells that need cleanup, the state reaches out to the oil and gas producers responsible. If they don’t respond, the state can take them to court.
“We will continue using all available tools to bring companies into compliance so the state lands that fund our public education system are treated with proper care and any damage is promptly restored,” Ari Biernoff, the general counsel at the State Land Office, said in a press release. “While many lessees and operators act responsibly, this program exists for those who don’t – so that our state lands are protected for future generations and continue earning revenue for our schools.”
New Mexico has also received federal funding to clean up abandoned wells. Across the state, there are more than 1,000 orphaned wells, according to the Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Department.