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A bill that would make the most significant changes in decades to a nearly 90-year-old state fossil fuel law stirred a lengthy and heated discussion among lawmakers about increasing regulation on an industry that generates roughly 40% of New Mexico’s tax revenue.


The House Energy, Environment, and Natural Resources Committee voted 6-5 Thursday, mostly along party lines, to advance a bill that has drawn staunch opposition from the industry and its advocates, who say it’s a regulatory attack that will drive smaller operators from the state or out of business.


It would eliminate the cap on penalties imposed on rule breakers and increase the maximum bonding amounts that drillers pay upfront as insurance to $10 million from the current $250,000.


It also would codify the state’s waste rule requiring companies to capture 98% of their methane by 2026.


Many conservationists also were unhappy about this version of the bill passing. An earlier version would have required oil wells to be set back at least 2,250 feet from homes, schools, businesses and institutions. It also called for wells to be distanced up to 660 feet from water bodies.


“I think it’s fair to say no one is happy,” committee Chairman Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Galisteo, said at the start of the hearing.

Oil wells should be set back at least a mile from schools to protect the estimated 32,000 New Mexico children who now are exposed to toxic air pollution while in the classroom, said Ennedith López, campaign manager for Youth United for Climate Crisis Action or YUCCA


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