New Mexico state authorities on Thursday reopened a case on proposed industry-prompted modifications to the state’s “pit rule” for handling natural gas and oil drilling and production waste.

In reopening deliberations, the New Mexico Oil Conservation Commission (OCC) signaled that the case would run over into next year, scheduling three hearings to take more public testimony (Jan. 9-11). “The commission decided to reopen the record to allow further testimony for revision and updated data from the [oil/gas industry] petitioners and all other parties,” an OCC spokesperson said.

The New Mexico Oil and Gas Association (NMOGA), one of the parties seeking the revised rule, is supportive of the OCC taking more time to get to a final determination. “We think this is the next step, and we will do what we can to provide clear testimony regarding additional and clarifying information that the commission has asked for,” NMOGA spokesperson Wally Drangmeister told NGI late Thursday.

NMOGA thinks after the January hearings the OCC will be able to quickly write a final rule, Drangmeister said. None of the additional information and clarification is a “huge issue,” he said. “We’re still cautiously optimistic that we are going to get needed relief in terms of the regulation [as it now stands] and it will be done in a way that it is still protective of the environment.”

In making the decision to reopen the record, the OCC had to suspend deliberations on writing a final rule to permit the additional testimony to be entered into the record, the spokesperson said. “There is no timetable or deadline for these proceedings.”

In early October industry sources thought that a draft rule could be issued, but an OCC staff source was less optimistic, and his assessment proved correct since the deliberations were concluded with no decision (see Daily GPI, Oct. 4).

Last spring the rules were put on hold by a state judge (see Daily GPI, May 22). A petition by the Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico and the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association has continued to seek administrative changes to rules for handling drilling production waste. In August New Mexico completed four months of hearings on the industry groups’ request that the regulations be modified to make them more cost-effective (see Daily GPI, Aug. 31). Closing written statements from all parties were submitted in September.

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