Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, August 9, 2023


Daniel Tso, (505) 567-0289,
Gail Evans, Center for Biological Diversity, (505) 463-5293,

New Mexico Governor Urged to Ban Oil Wells Near Schools to Protect Children

SANTA FE, N.M.— Environmental, public health and social justice groups today urged New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to establish statewide health buffer zones to prohibit oil and gas wells within one mile of schools and other educational facilities.

In June state Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard introduced a ban on new oil and gas leasing on state lands within a mile of schools, but no policy exists to protect children from wells on other lands. Today’s letter asks the governor to use her executive authority to ban new wells within a mile of schools across New Mexico and phase out existing wells within that health zone by 2026.

“It’s critical to protect our children and grandchildren from toxic oil and gas emissions,” said Daniel Tso, former council delegate of the Navajo Nation Council. “I’ve seen an increase in respiratory illnesses among Navajo students who attend Lybrook Elementary School, which is surrounded by oil and gas wells. They don’t deserve to be poisoned when they go to school.”

More than 34,000 New Mexico children attend schools within one mile of oil and gas wells, and nearly 24,000 students have active oil and gas wells within a half-mile of their schools.

“It’s an absolute disgrace that children in New Mexico are being poisoned by oil and gas pollution while at school,” said Gail Evans, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Establishing health buffers around schools is a critical and necessary first step the governor must take to protect our children’s health and safety.”

Children are especially vulnerable to the toxic contaminants and volatile organic compounds emitted during oil and gas extraction. Being exposed to this pollution can exacerbate or increase the risk for a host of health issues, including respiratory disease, asthma, neurodevelopmental disorders, cognitive development, pediatric cancers and chronic diseases.

In response to overwhelming evidence that oil and gas production harms public health, several states including Colorado and California have passed health buffer protections around schools.

RSOil well_NM_Becca Grady-scr
An oil well in front of Ocotillo Elementary School, Carlsbad, N.M. Photo credit: Becca Grady. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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