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Tribal advocates keep up legal pressure for fair political maps; 12-member jury sworn in for Trump's historic criminal trial; the importance of healthcare decision planning; and a debt dilemma: poll shows how many people wrestle with college costs.

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Civil rights activists say a court ruling could end the right to protest in three southern states, a federal judge lets January 6th lawsuits proceed against former President Trump, and police arrest dozens at a Columbia University Gaza protest.

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Rural Wyoming needs more vocational teachers to sustain its workforce pipeline, Ohio environmental advocates fear harm from a proposal to open 40-thousand forest acres to fracking and rural communities build bike trail systems to promote nature, boost the economy.

A trio of NM bills could rein in lucrative oil, gas industry

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Wednesday, January 24, 2024   

A trio of bills to curb oil and gas pollution is under consideration by New Mexico lawmakers.

New Mexico is the country's second-largest oil producer and a top gas producer.

Rep. Debbie Sariñana, D-Albuquerque, co-chair of Elected Officials to Protect America and chair of the group's New Mexico Leadership Council, believes policy changes are needed to protect children from pollution and prevent fresh water from being wasted during the state's ongoing megadrought.

Despite what some believe, she argued the bills are not designed to shut down the industry, which she acknowledged is important to the state's bottom line.

"We're just trying to regulate the industry, so they're not operating in a way that wastes our fresh water," Sariñana explained. "They have to operate according to basic environmental and public health principles."

The bills would limit the use of fresh water in oil and gas operations, impose mandatory fines for chemical spills, and establish stricter setbacks from school facilities as a means to create child health protection zones. A spokesman for the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association said it is watching the bills, and supports those "grounded in science."

Sariñana said she's determined to change how New Mexico gets energy from fossil fuels and transition the state to clean renewables. She feels strongly adults and children who live near oil and gas wells should not be inhaling byproducts and getting sick.

"What makes these people who live in that area so 'not important' that we as a state believe gas and oil should be doing what they want?" Sariñana asked. "These people are getting sicker, and they're front line people and Indigenous people. They're people of color, and they're just as important as everyone else."

Recent studies have shown living near oil and gas wells increases a person's exposure to air pollution and thereby increases the likelihood of illness. New Mexico has several towns in the middle of oil fields as well as schools next to fossil fuel well sites.

Disclosure: Elected Officials to Protect America contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Energy Policy, and Public Lands/Wilderness. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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