In this week's news update, the New Mexico Court of Appeals rules that workers in New Mexico are not entitled to overtime pay to travel to and from job sites, and the US rig count sees another small increase.

Oilfield workers in New Mexico are not entitled to overtime pay for travel between their homes and job sites, according to the New Mexico Court of Appeals in a ruling on June 25.

Court documents say the case was between three workers representing all other similar workers, versus their employer, J.W. Drilling, based in Artesia. The workers were seeking overtime pay, stating their employer “failed to pay them for overtime wages for the time spent traveling from their homes to the employer’s job sites.”

The worker told the court that they would have to travel at least an hour a day to and from job sites in the Permian Basin oilfield in southeastern New Mexico. Because the time traveling from home required them to work over 40 hours a week, they felt they were entitled to overtime pay.

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The appellate court rejected the argument and ruled it would force the state minimum wage act to include a requirement that employers compensate their workers for time traveling to work and home. The Court of Appeals decision upheld a trial judge’s pretrial ruling in favor of J.W. Drilling.

Appellate Court Upholds Illinois Fracking Rules

Illinois’ rules for fracking were upheld by an appeals court on July 10. The appellate court sided with a Madison County judge who rejected an environmental group’s legal challenge.

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Seven landowners and the group Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment had sought a preliminary injunction to prevent the rules from being implemented. Opponents feel fracking can cause air and water pollution and health problems, but industry officials say the method is safe.

The 5th District Appellate Court issued its opinion agreeing with a November ruling in favor of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ rules on fracking.

Rig Count Increases Again

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The number of active drilling rigs increased by one this week to 863, according Houston-based Baker Hughes in numbers released July 10.

Of the rigs operating in the U.S., 645 were exploring for oil, while 217 were deployed for natural gas and one was classified as miscellaneous.

The total is down 1,012 rigs from a year ago, when it was 1,875.

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