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Guardians Calls for Cancellation of Mancos Shale Fracking in Northwestern New Mexico

2,800 Acres Could be Sold to Industry Despite Lack of Safeguards; Climate, Clean Air at Risk

Santa Fe, NM—WildEarth Guardians joined a coalition of organizations late yesterday in calling on the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to cancel a proposed oil and gas lease sale that would auction off 2,800 acres for fracking the Mancos shale in the San Juan Basin of northwestern New Mexico.

“Fracking is quickly overtaking the San Juan Basin’s clean air and cultural values, and worse, it’s fueling global warming,” said Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians’ Climate and Energy Program Director.  “It’s time for the Bureau of Land Management to put the brakes on more fracking and start to focus on protecting our public lands, not hand them over to industry.”

The Bureau of Land Management’s proposal comes even as the agency has publicly admitted that it has not yet analyzed the environmental impacts of Mancos shale fracking in the San Juan Basin or adopted effective safeguards to protect the region’s air, water, and wildlife.

In comments submitted late yesterday, WildEarth Guardians joined a coalition of groups, including the Western Environmental Law Center and San Juan Citizens Alliance, called out the Bureau of Land Management for putting the oil and gas industry before public lands, clean air, and the climate.

The San Juan Basin, a six million acre region in northwestern New Mexico and southwestern Colorado, has experienced heavy oil and gas drilling for many years, effectively turning much of the public lands in the region into industrial zones.  In spite of this, many areas still remain undeveloped, sustaining potential wilderness areas, deer and other wildlife, and cultural gems like Chaco Canyon.

With the onset of horizontal drilling and advanced fracking technologies, however, previously undeveloped areas are being targeted by industry, particularly in the southern end of the Basin in northwestern Sandoval County and southwestern Rio Arriba County. This heavy impact drilling and fracking is targeting oil in the Mancos shale and not only bringing unprecedented industrial activity to the region, but producing impacts that were never before contemplated.

In a February notice, the Bureau of Land Management stated that its current management plan for the Farmington Field Office was inadequate because it failed to protect public lands in the region from the environmental impacts of Mancos shale fracking.

In spite of this, the agency is continuing to approve Mancos shale fracking proposals, including new oil and gas leasing.  The latest proposal would auction off five parcels totaling 2,800 acres.  In an environmental assessment prepared in late August, the Bureau of Land Management disclosed the leases were meant to facilitate Mancos shale drilling.

“This is ‘leaping before looking’ at its worst,” said Nichols.  “With the Bureau of Land Management itself conceding that our public lands lack adequate protection from fracking, more oil and gas leasing is the last thing they should be approving.” 

The proposed leasing comes as more than 100 Mancos shale wells have been drilled in the area, already, many with Bureau of Land Management approval. According to the agency, 118 new wells stand to be drilled on the five lease parcels.

To view a map of the proposed lease parcels and existing wells in the area, click here >>

The Bureau of Land Management has indicated it will respond to Guardians’ comments by October 22.


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