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State Regulations: New Mexico

State of New Mexico

The Oil Conservation Division (OCD) in the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department regulates oil and gas and geothermal operations in New Mexico. The OCD has the responsibility to gather oil and gas production data, permit new wells, establish pool rules and oil and gas allowables, issue discharge permits, enforce rules and regulations of the division, monitor underground injection wells and ensure that abandoned wells are properly plugged and the land is responsibly restored. Otherwise, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) administers the major environmental protection laws. The Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC), which is administratively attached to the NMED, assigns responsibility for administering its regulations to constituent agencies, including the OCD.


New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department
Oil Conservation Division
P.O. Box 6429
Santa Fe, NM 87505 (mailing address)

1220 South Saint Francis Drive
Santa Fe, NM 87505 (street address)

(505) 476-3440 (phone)
(505) 476-3462 (fax)

New Mexico Environment Department
Harold S. Runnels Building
1190 Saint Francis Drive
Santa Fe, NM 87502-0110
(505) 827-2855 or (800) 219-6157 (phone)

Water Quality Control Commission
NMED Boards and Commissions
1190 Saint Francis Drive, N2054
Santa Fe, NM 87502
(505) 827-2425 (phone)
(505) 827-2836 (fax)

Disposal Practices and Applicable Regulations

The oil and gas regulations administered by the Oil Conservation Division (OCD) are contained in Chapter 15 (Oil and Gas) of Title 19 (Natural Resources and Wildlife) of the New Mexico Administrative Code (OCD Rulebook). The OCD recently reorganized the rules relevant to oil field waste management operations. Viewers are encouraged to access , go to "Hearing Order Number/Amendment, and in the left box "R-12460" (Hearing Order Number) and "B" into the right box (Amendment), and hit "continue." This will open a new window with a pdf icon. Clicking the icon will open the pdf file containing the new rules ( through -55).

The environmental protection regulations are provided in Title 20 (Environmental Protection) of the New Mexico Administrative Code. The OCD administers, through delegation by the WQCC, all Water Quality Act regulations pertaining to surface and groundwater (except sewage not present in a combined waste stream)

  • (Transportation of Drilling Fluids and Other Liquid Oil Field Waste).
    • No person shall drilling fluids or other liquid oil field waste (unless for small samples removed for analysis) by motor vehicle from a lease, central tank battery or other facility without an approved Form C-133. The transporter shall maintain a photocopy of the approved C-133 in the transporting vehicle.
    • A person may apply for authorization to move drilling fluids or other liquid oil field waste by filing a complete Form C-133 with the OCD Santa Fe office. Authorization is granted upon the approval of Form C-133.
    • No owner or operator shall permit drilling fluids or other liquid oil field waste to be removed from its leases or field facilities (unless for small samples removed for analysis) by motor vehicle except by a person possessing an approved Form C-133. The OCD shall post a list of currently approved Form C-133
    • The Rules provide four reasons for denying approval of a Form C-133.
    • Vehicular movement or disposition of drilling fluids or other liquid oil field wastes in a manner contrary to division rules, or a ground for denial of approval of Form C-133 shall be cause, after notice and an opportunity for hearing, for cancellation or suspension of a transporter's authorization to move liquid wastes.
  • (Disposition of Produced Water and Other Oil Field Waste).
    • No person, including any transporter, may dispose of oil field waste on or below the surface of the ground, or in any pit, pond, lake, depression, draw, streambed, or arroyo, or in any watercourse; in any other place or in any manner which will constitute a hazard to any fresh water supplies; or in any permitted pit or registered or permitted surface waste management facility without the permission of the owner or operator of the pit or facility.
    • The following methods of disposition of oil field waste are authorized:
      • Persons shall dispose of other oil field waste by transfer to an appropriate permitted or registered surface waste management facility or injection facility or applied to a division-authorized beneficial use.
      • Persons may transport recovered drilling fluids to other drill sites for reuse provided that such fluids are transported and stored in a manner that does not constitute a hazard to fresh water, public health, safety or the environment.
  • (Surface Waste Management Facilities).
    • A surface waste management facility is defined as any facility that receives for collection, disposal, evaporation, remediation, reclamation, treatment or storage any oil field wastes except:
      • A facility that utilizes underground injection wells subject to regulation by the OCD pursuant to the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, and does not manage oil field wastes on the ground in pits, ponds below grade tanks or land application units;
      • A facility subject to Water Quality Control Commission Regulations;
      • A drilling or workover pit (;
      • A tank or pit that receives oil field waste from a single well, regardless of the capacity or volume of oil field waste received;
      • A facility located at an oil and gas production facility and used for temporary storage of oil field waste generated on-site from normal operations, if the facility does not poses a threat to fresh water, public health, safety or the environment;
      • A remediation conducted in accordance with an OCD-approved abatement plan pursuant to, a corrective action pursuant to or a corrective action of a non-reportable release;
      • A facility operating pursuant to an emergency order of the OCD;
      • A site or facility where the operator is conducting emergency response operations to abate an immediate threat to fresh water, public health, safety or the environment or as the division has specifically directed or approved; or
      • A facility that receives only exempt oil field waste, receives less than 50 barrels of liquid water per day (averaged over a 30-dav period), has a capacity to hold 500 barrels of liquids or less and is permitted pursuant to
    • Types of surface waste management facilities
      • A commercial facility is defined as any surface waste management facility that does not meet the definition of centralized facility.
      • A centralized facility is defined as a surface waste management facility that is used exclusively by one generator subject to New Mexico's "Oil and Gas Conservation Tax Act;" that does not involve the receipt of compensation for waste management by the generator or operator; and that receives exclusively oil field wastes that are generated from production units or leases operated by the generator or an affiliate.
    • Rule 53 provides the requirements governing, among others:
      • OCD permitting, application, public notice, and financial assurance.
      • Permit approval, denial, revocation, suspension, or modification.
      • Siting and operations.
      • Landfills (operations, ground water monitoring, designs, liners, and gas control and response).
      • Landfarms subject to oil field waste acceptance criteria.
      • Evaporation, storage, treatment, and skimmer ponds.
      • Closure and post-closure.
  • (Pit for Drill Fluid and Cuttings).
    • Before drilling is commenced, operators must provide an adequate reserve pit for the accumulation of drill cuttings.
    • Drill cuttings and drilling fluids must be disposed of at the well site in a manner to prevent contamination to surface and surface waters.
    • Removal of drill cuttings and drilling fluids for offsite disposal will be permitted only by approval of the appropriate OCD district supervisor.

  • (Offsite Disposal).
    • Exempt oil and gas wastes do not require OCD approval to be disposed of at an authorized surface waste management facility.
    • Non-exempt non-hazardous oil and gas wastes must receive OCD approval prior to disposal at any surface waste management facility. OCD approval is requested by the facility or the waste generator with Form C-138. A blanket approval may be obtained through an OCD discharge plan.

  • Other disposal methods for drill cuttings and drilling fluids include landfarming and recycling.

  • In addition, regulations governing surface water protection ( and, groundwater protection ( through, and underground injection control ( through may apply.

  • The OCD has published the Environmental Handbook, which can be accessed through the OCD homepage under publications.