IPANM – IPANM was notified by the New Mexico Oil Conservation Division (ODC) Director that the State Land Office (SLO) is putting both public and behind-the-scenes pressure on the outgoing administration to take action on out of compliance wells, whether that be for spills needing to be cleaned up or overdue well plugging.
Attached is a letter from the State Land Commissioner urging OCD to take immediate action. Also attached is OCD Director Heather Riley’s letter to IPANM (and other industry groups). BOTH the SLO and OCD have forwarded lists of specific wells to industry that indicate which wells they consider out-of-compliance in their records. While other industry groups have forwarded these lists to members, IPANM will not release these lists to all members. Instead, IPANM is reaching out individually to member companies on the list, and offering any support for clearing up any ongoing disputes over well compliance with OCD. Likewise, we are urging those members to proceed with plugging or remediation efforts if non-compliance issues are legitimate.
In regards to the Non-Compliance lists, IPANM believes that for every well on these lists, there are potential extenuating circumstances that may, in fact, be due to a government regulatory error, a government record keeping error, or an ongoing dispute over well status (especially wells involved in recent transactions). We believe that releasing these lists to all members or the general public does not best serve the interests of our members. We are wary that releasing these lists is a political tactic used by regulators to intimidate, embarrass or shame a producer into paying large sums of money for remediation or plugging efforts that they might not be liable for. IPANM will not legitimize “guilt until proven innocent” regulatory tactics at any level of government.
That being said, if regulators have legitimate grounds for a well to be out of compliance, IPANM does strongly urge members to proceed quickly with efforts to remediate or plug that well. Be aware that a new state administration takes power next month, and we are expecting stronger efforts and more political tactics (such as negative publicity for individual operators) to ramp up in the months ahead.