New Mexico oilfield regulators would recover authority to directly levy civil fines against well operators who fail to properly maintain equipment or spill waste under a bill endorsed by the Senate.
The 32-6 Senate vote Friday sends the bill to the House for approval of amendments before it can reach the governor. The bill contains oversight provisions for the handling of water in drilling and fracking.
Collection of fines against oilfield operators has ground to a near halt in the aftermath of a 2009 state Supreme Court decision that required the involvement of state prosecutors to assess penalties.
Under the bill, possible fines would increase from $1,000 a day to $2,500 — and possibly $10,000 for major threats to health, safety or the environment. Fines are capped at $200,000.
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