Industry report leaves out oil and gas health, water, climate damages

For immediate release: Jan. 19 2022

Industry report leaves out oil and gas health, water, climate damages

Santa Fe, N.M. — The Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter issued the following statement in response to an economic report issued by the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association, which failed to include the industry’s well-documented economic costs and harms to New Mexicans’ health, water, and air quality. The Sierra Club is also supplying science-based facts to give the public a more complete understanding of oil and gas impacts in our state.

“Oil and gas CEOs are profiting hand over fist on our publicly held resources and lands, while doing great harm to our communities,” said Camilla Feibelman, director of the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter. “The industry must start telling the whole story when it comes to their operations. You can’t just claim ‘safe and responsible production’ when this data shows otherwise.”

The Sierra Club provided data to help media organizations and legislative committees give equal time to the dangerous health and economic harms of fossil-fuel production when referencing industry claims about benefits. This will provide the public, and elected officials, a more balanced assessment of the oil and gas industry’s impact on New Mexico.

“Reporting solely focused on one side of the ledger lets the industry off the hook from the devastation it does and will to our air, land, water, and way of life, as we see from the climate-fueled, unprecedented wildfires that have cost New Mexico families and the state billions,” Feibelman added. “Even with incremental progress, environmental agencies continue to struggle to fund their rulemaking, enforcement and inspection budgets, despite the current excess revenue to the state.”


  • New Mexico’s top oil-producing counties, Eddy and San Juan County, both received an “F” for air quality in the American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2022 Report. (Source: American Lung Association).
  • An estimated 144,377 New Mexicans, including 27,975 students and 119 schools and daycares — live or work within a half-mile health-risk area due to oil and gas development. (Source: the Oil & Gas Threat Map by Earthworks).
  • Lea County, one of New Mexico’s top oil-producing counties, has had the second-highest risk of asthma attacks in the entire U.S. (Source: Clean Air Task Force).
  • In the summer of 2022, a Carlsbad air monitor recorded 22 days of excessive ozone levels. (Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency).
  • Exposure to ground-level ozone contributes to respiratory illnesses, such as asthma and increased risk for respiratory infections, and long-term exposure poses an increased risk of premature death (Source: American Lung Association).


  • It can take 11 million gallons of water to drill a single well in NM’s Permian Basin each year. (Source: American Association for the Advancement of Science).
  • Put another way, it can take one football stadium of water up to 40 feet high to frack a new oil & gas shale well (Source: Forbes).
  • Meanwhile, 60%+ of NM is in moderate to extreme drought (Source: U.S. Drought Monitor).
  • In 2021, New Mexico’s oil and gas industry generated approximately 60 billion gallons of produced water, over 160 million gallons per day, equal to New Mexico’s total daily municipal water consumption. (Source: New Mexico State University).

Air Pollution

Fines/Leaks/Public Safety

  • In just one year, 1,368 oil & gas-related spills were reported in New Mexico, an average of 4 spills per day. That means on average each day:
    – 11,000+ gallons of toxic produced water was spilled
    – 1,800+ gallons of crude oil spilled
    – 15+ million cubic ft. of methane flared
    (Source: NM Oil Conservation Division/Center for Western Priorities).
  • XTO, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil, was recently fined $1.77 million for violations related to wastewater wells tied to earthquakes in New Mexico. (Source: NM Oil Conservation Division, Carlsbad Current Argus).
  • Oil and gas equipment leak rates in the Permian Basin increased 250% in 12 months in 2022. (Source: NM Environment Department).
  • Methane emissions from gas-gathering pipelines in the Permian Basin are at least 14 times greater than EPA national inventory estimates. (Source: Environmental Defense Fund.)

Worker Safety

  • New Mexico has the second-highest fatality rate of oil and gas workers in the nation. 73 workers died between 2008 and 2018. (Source: Journal of Forensic Sciences).

Campaign Contributions

  • The oil & gas industry has contributed more than $15 million to New Mexico politicians since 2017, including $2 million in the 2022 elections. (Source: NM Ethics Watch).
  • Chevron and ExxonMobil corporations recorded profits totaling $31.2 billion in the three month period from July to September 2022 (“Q3”). (Source: NY Times).

Abandoned Wells

Industry report leaves out oil and gas health, water, climate damages