Two proposals aimed at limiting the reach of local government involvement in regulating oil and natural gas development are being debated in the New Mexico state legislature this week.
Earlier this week, New Mexico House members passed by a 37-28 vote an amended version of an industry-backed bill (HB 366) that limits local control and gives the state Oil Conservation Division (OCD) and Oil Conservation Commission exclusive authority over oil/gas activities.
A second bill in the state Senate (SB 421) would amend local zoning authority, prohibiting passage of any ordinances concerning oil, gas, mining or agricultural issues, according to a synopsis on the Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico's (IPANM) website.
"Our bill (HB 366) still allows for zoning authority in areas other than those listed," the IPANM website post said, referring to its sponsorship of the House bill.
The Senate bill does not clarify the exclusive regulatory role of the OCD. HB 366 states that the state agency is the sole regulator of the conservation, extraction, processing and storage of oil and natural gas, IPANM officials said.
Calling HB 366 "vitally important in the discussions with counties," IPANM officials said the language in the bill was "carefully drafted" to comply with a recent federal district court decision striking down a ban on drilling using hydraulic fracturing in Mora County, a rural area 100 miles northeast of Santa Fe (see Shale Daily, Jan. 21). The judge said there were still limits to the state's jurisdiction.
"[The judge] held that there is a conflict preemption between the laws that established the state OCD's authority and Mora County's desire to ban all oil/gas operations," IPANM said, adding, however, that the judge stated that because OCD does not regulate all issues that might arise regarding oil/gas, such as noise, dust or neighbor nuisance complaints, "the state cannot have express jurisdiction over all oil/gas operations."