Deliberations were scheduled to continue Thursday at the New Mexico Oil Conservation Commission (OCC) on proposed industry-prompted modifications to the state’s so-call pit rule for handling natural gas and oil drilling and production waste.

Industry sources were still optimistic that a draft rule could be issued as soon as Friday, but an OCC staff source was less optimistic, given the detailed discussions ongoing.

The rules were put on hold by a state judge earlier this year (see Daily GPI, May 22; Feb. 28). A petition by the Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico (IPA) and the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association (NMOGA) 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 last month.

Contrary to some reports, the OCC appears to be locked in detailed deliberations, although final draft rules still may be completed by Friday, an OCC spokesperson told NGI on Wednesday. At this point, “there is no ‘draft’ document, and that is what the deliberations are spending time on — literally word-by-word,” the spokesperson said. “Then [after a draft], they must vote on it.”

The spokesperson said that he was unaware of New Mexico producers having worked out “any kind of agreement with the state or vice-versa…Our lawyers are indicating that the deliberations could go beyond Friday.”

However, the NMOGA was more optimistic. A spokesperson said it was still unclear if the producers would get the changes they want, and given the process they have no more input. The only recourse if they are unhappy with what finally is promulgated is to appeal in the courts, which some have indicated they may do. The NMOGA spokesperson characterized the ongoing discussions as “an increasingly intimate process.”

In its monitoring of the deliberations, the IPA posted on its website that in the OCC talks last month a lot of discussion focused on the definition of a “temporary pit,” whether a multi-well fluid management pit needs to be “permitted, constructed and regulated like a permanent pit and whether an operators needs to prove equal or better protection to fresh water, public health, safety, livestock and the environment in order to obtain a variance.”

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