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Conservation Groups Fight to Overturn Plans to Auction Public and Tribal Lands to the Oil and Gas Industry
SANTA FE, NM - Today, in defense of clean air, clean water, healthy communities, and our climate, a coalition of conservation groups called on Trump’s Bureau of Land Management to reverse plans to auction off public and Tribal lands in the Greater Chaco region to the oil and gas industry. The BLM is moving ahead with plans to sell more public and Tribal lands for fracking in the area despite intense opposition from conservation and Tribal interests.
"Once again, Trump and Zinke have failed the American public by declining to disclose the true costs of fossil fuel development on our communities, air, water and climate," said Jeremy Nichols, Climate and Energy Program Director at WildEarth Guardians. "Under Trump, the BLM’s sole job these days seems to be to grease the skids for the oil and gas industry to frack and industrialize the Greater Chaco Region.”
WildEarth Guardians, joined by the Western Environmental Law Center, Amigos Bravos, Chaco Alliance, Dine Citizens Against Our Ruining Our Environment, the Natural Resources Defense Council, San Juan Citizens Alliance, and the Sierra Club, opposed the BLM and U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs’ (BIA) plans to auction off 25 parcels containing 4,434 acres of publicly owned land to the fracking industry at the March 8, 2018 oil and gas lease sale.
The leases are located near the homes of Navajo residents and just outside a 10-mile buffer from Chaco Canyon National Historical Park. It’s as if the Bureau of Land Management couldn’t care less about the concerns of the Navajo Nation or any Tribal interests. Trump and Zinke have continued to rubberstamp industry demands to industrialize this sacred landscape in spite of calls from the Navajo Nation and the All Pueblo Council of Governors for a moratorium on fracking in the Greater Chaco region.
“It’s obvious that this lease sale is another slap in the face to the Navajo Nation and New Mexican Pueblos from President Trump and his Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke,” said Nichols. “More importantly, it’s another sign that Trump and Zinke have absolute disregard for American public lands and the cultural heritage they sustain.”
A growing coalition of Indigenous, environmental, and public health groups have called for immediate relief for the area on multiple occasions. While the BLM and BIA intend to develop a new plan to protect Greater Chaco, it’s increasingly clear the agencies may have no intention of following through, effectively breaking their promises to the Navajo Nation and the American public.
The Greater Chaco area is already besieged by fossil fuel development. The region hosts the nation’s largest methane hotspot as a direct result of oil and gas activities. In 2016, San Juan County received an "F" from the American Lung Association for ground-level ozone (smog) pollution, responsible for over 12,000 asthma attacks in New Mexican children each year.
On a regular basis there are oil and gas disasters - gas tank explosions, water tank explosions (associated with gas production), ruptures, leaks, spills, earthquakes, and air, soil and water contamination. In July 2016, a well pad near the Nageezi Chapter House exploded and burned for days, killing livestock and requiring local residents to evacuate.
“While the Bureau of Land Management has admitted new analysis is required to understand the landscape level impacts from fracking in the Greater Chaco region, the agency, abetted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, shamelessly continues to authorize more industrialized fracking development absent that understanding,” added Nichols. “This administration has turned a blind eye to the harms that widespread fracking is causing on our public lands. This latest boilerplate analysis continues the trend of BLM rushing to bend over backwards for industry, rather than performing adequate analyses as required by federal law.”
A map of the oil and gas leases is available here.
A copy of the submitted comments is available here.