Citizen complaints can be an important barometer of industry behavior, and citizens can provide a crucial early warning of problems at oil and gas sites.
In Texas, the oil and gas regulatory agency has stated that “Citizens are viewed as extra eyes to help the RRC [Railroad Commission] identify problems..” In 2009, the RRC received 681 complaints related to oil and gas and found 1,997 violations based on these complaints. In Pennsylvania, complaints led to the discovery of at least 700 violations between 2007 and 2011.
The Texas Railroad Commission publishes quarterly statistics on complaints. Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) publishes complaints statistics in its staff reports, and COGCC’s online database enables users to view the 5,000 most recent complaints.
New Mexico’s Oil Conservation Division (OCD) does not publish any statistics on citizen complaints on its web site. OCD’s Electronic Permitting System, which allows users to view information on wells, does contain a category of information labelled “Complaints, Incidents and Spills”. But it appears that information on complaints is not kept up-to-date in this system. For example, even though OCD carried out an inspection in response to a complaint about a leak being covered up the EPS well file did not contain any details on the complaint.
Since New Mexico does not provide detailed information regarding citizen complaints, it is impossible to know the full scope of the problems being experienced by citizens living close to New Mexico’s oil and gas fields.
Information on citizen complaints in New Mexico—such as information on facilities of concern, nature of the complaint, OCD follow-up, and complaint resolution—should be made publicly accessible.