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Act today to prevent fracking waste from becoming part of our water supply

The 30 day session moves so fast that we often have almost no time to react, but there are still seven days left for the Governor's Strategic Water Supply plan to add fracking waste to our water supply to get funded and authorized in this session. It is still unclear, perhaps intentionally, how the plan will be authorized and funded. HB253 appears to be the latest candidate. It has already passed two committees and today we noticed that it was amended to authorize up to $500M in severance tax bonds for projects, including 9% specifically set aside for water projects that include "treatment or reuse of water." Next it will be up for a vote on the House floor, where it is already on the calendar, and then will likely go to Senate Finance before a final vote. Other contenders include HB9 and SB275. Long story short, we need to ask our representatives to keep their eyes open, ask questions, and oppose any funding or bills that could endanger our water.

Our chances to defeat this dangerous proposal come down to your action this week! What can you do?

1. Come to Room 303 in the Roundhouse from 8-9AM tomorrow morning to get information and join the No False Solutions team to lobby legislators during Environment Day at the Roundhouse.

2. Call your House Representative and your Senator and ask them to protect our water and vote against or demand amendments to any bill authorizing funding for the re-use of fracking waste as water. Some questions they should be asking House and Senate leadership:

  • Who will be overseeing permitting projects to treat and re-use fracking wastewater?

  • What rules will apply to produced water re-use?

  • Who will test treated "water" and ensure its safety?

  • How will the radioactive brine produced through the desalination process be disposed?

  • How can we be sure that extraction from deep brackish acquifers wont affect our potable water?

  • Why are public funds being allocated to entice water intensive private industries to our state?

3. Click on the link below to email House and Senate Democrats and ask them to stand up against the Governor's dangerous bailout of oil and gas.

What is the Strategic Water Supply?

The Strategic Water Supply request from the Governor and the New Mexico Environment Department asks for $500 million over two years ($250m in 2024 and $250m in 2025) via state issued severance tax bonds. The proceeds will be deposited in a Strategic Water Supply Fund which will offer “advance market commitments” to incentivize private companies to build treatment plants for brackish and produced water (aka fracking waste) and sell it to companies seeking to do business in New Mexico.

Why is it being proposed?

The Governor is seeking to attract water intensive industries to our arid state at a time when we are facing the potential of a 25% decrease in our rivers and aquifers. She is also proposing to use public funds to subsidize the oil and gas industry and help them try to solve their costly and enormous waste disposal problem. Under the governor’s leadership and with her explicit support, natural gas production in NM has nearly doubled and oil production has grown by 127 percent, and in 2022 the industry used 86,000 acre feet of freshwater and produced more than 266,160 acre feet of toxic and radioactive produced “water” in the process. Each barrel of oil results in 4 to 10 barrels of waste that the industry has no long term solution for. Much of that waste is re-injected underground, but capacity issues and increasing seismic activity pose an urgent problem in the Permian. As one energy executive put it “Finding ways to get this water to a beneficial use is paramount.”

How will the proposed “Strategic Water Supply” plan endanger land, water and human health? 

The Governor’s recently published water plan states that with the Strategic Water Supply “By 2028 100,000-acre-feet of new water is available for State use and resale for clean energy production, storage and manufacturing and for other zero-discharge industrial processes. By 2035, 50,000-acre-feet of treated brackish water is available and/or applied to active projects to recharge fresh- water aquifers and otherwise augment the supply of freshwater for communities, farms, aquatic ecosystems, and interstate compact compliance.”

  • There is no such thing as zero-discharge. Any brackish water or produced water treatment process will result in a highly concentrated toxic and radioactive brine that will require disposal. A primary industry that the Governor is hoping to attract is green hydrogen production through electrolysis, which requires 9 liters (2.38 gallons) of water per kilogram of hydrogen produced, and water purity standards higher than those for residential water supply. Purification of water to the degree needed for electrolysis entails a rejected water stream that is two to four times more concentrated than the input. (Produced water in the Permian Basin typically exceeds 150,000 ppm TDS, which is four times more saline than seawater!) When you start with brackish water and fracking waste, that brine discharge is essentially a radioactive, hazardous waste. There is no answer for what to do with this waste.

  • Toxins and Radiation in fracking fluids can accumulate in soil, plants, livestock and the human body. Chemicals involved in fracking include known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, such as barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, nitrate, selenium, and BTEX, as well as acetone, ethylene glycol (anti-freeze), phthalates, polypropylene glycols, and dozens of other toxic chemicals, and have been proven to increase birth defects. Even if reduced to extremely low concentrations, these chemicals can accumulate in soil, plants, and livestock over time. Research has shown that produced water can lower crop yields; suppress plant disease defenses; inhibit seed vigor and germination; reduce microbial diversity; and harm fish, amphibians and mollusks.

  • Radiation in both deep brackish and produced water cannot be effectively treated. Even if all of these toxins in produced water can be removed, the radioactivity present in both deep brackish water and produced water cannot be fully treated, endangering the workers handling the waste and any ecosystem or living organism exposed to it. In Pennsylvania a PA Dept. of Environmental Protection] study of treated produced water found “Radium was routinely detected in all sample types with little difference between influent and effluent or between filtered and unfiltered results.” A recent report also found that workers at produced water treatment plants have experienced serious health impacts.

  • New Mexico’s deep brackish waters are hydrologically connected to the water we depend on. The SWS proposal asserts that brackish groundwater is hydrologically separate from freshwater resources and currently is not used. However, in most NM basins, deeper more saline water is hydrologically connected to the overlying aquifers containing potable water supplies. Pumping this saline water risks contamination of shallow potable water and impacts to streamflows.  

While proponents of “beneficial re-use” continue to hope for a scientific breakthrough that will resolve the problems associated with reuse of produced water, the reality is that oil and gas wastewater contains significant toxic contaminants known to severely impact human health, radioactive nuclides that cannot be removed through filtration and, especially in New Mexico, extreme levels of salinity that, even if removed from the water, will result in another toxic and radioactive waste product that cannot be easily disposed. The idea of experimenting on our freshwater aquifers, farms, and aquatic ecosystems should SCARE you. Without water security there is no economic security. 

Is this the most effective use of $500 million to deal with our urgent water crisis?

The State of New Mexico is failing to fund and do the crucial water management work identified by a consensus of the 2022 Water Policy and Infrastructure Task Force. Water Agencies requests for staff and resources continually fall on deaf ears, and without them the Agencies cannot implement 21st century water management that is essential to avoid New Mexico’s collapse. Without those resources they cannot implement the 2019 Water Data Act or organize the Regional Water Planning Entities authorized by the 2023 Water Security Planning Act. These important priorities must be fully funded and staffed before we spend money on a speculative and dangerous plan that endangers our soil, water and health and commodifies our most precious resource.


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