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In January 2020 a produced water pipe across from Penny Aucoin and Carl George's Carlsbad-area home burst, drenching their house and yard with toxic waste for an hour before it was shut off. Penny and her family were forced to euthanize their chickens and their dog, told to avoid eating anything growing on the property, and suffered health and economic consequences from the traumatic destruction of their home.


WPX, the operator responsible for the spill, removed 25 cubic yards of topsoil and paid for the remaining soil to be treated, but independent analysis of the remaining soil indicates there are still unhealthy levels of contamination such as benzene, chloride and "total petroleum hydrocarbons" present. However, the OCD declared the cleanup complete and the case was closed on August 4th. 


In January 2021 Penny and Carl, clients of our Executive Director, Mariel Nanasi, announced a settlement with the oil company WPX Energy. Penny shared with reporters that


“The dispute has been resolved amicably, but what scares me now is that people are blissfully unaware of the dangers that come with fracking, including the enormous amount of flow back waste produced during the fracking process."

“If Michelle Lujan Grisham’s Environment Department doesn’t begin to actually regulate the oil and gas industry and the extreme pollution that is all around us, then injury is likely to happen. I just pray and ask for our government to wake up and see how harmful this is to New Mexico, and its citizens. I’m asking that they take a stand. A first step is to make the discharge of produced water illegal.”


This settlement represents an important victory, a rare moment of justice for one of the many New Mexicans who are directly impacted by toxic oil and gas industry waste. Unbelievably, "unintentional" discharges of toxic produced water are not illegal in New Mexico. Read more from NM Political Report and Current Argus here.

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