In response to mounting pressure over growing air pollution problems, Exxon subsidiary XTO Energy last week withdrew an application to construct a massive new natural gas processing plant in New Mexico.
This development is a big win for clean air, health, and climate. It’s also the latest victory in our efforts to confront the fracking industry in the Permian Basin, the world’s largest oil producing region.
Earlier this year, Guardians objected to the New Mexico Environment Department’s proposal to approve an air pollution permit that would have allowed XTO to build the Husky Gas Processing Plant and Central Delivery Point in southeast New Mexico.
The facility, which would have processed fracked gas from wells in the region, would have been a huge source of air pollution, releasing large amounts of greenhouse gases, like methane and carbon dioxide, and smog forming emissions, like nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds.
Southeast New Mexico is already struggling with dangerously high air pollution levels. Fueled by a fracking boom, the region is violating health limits on ground-level ozone, the key ingredient of smog.
In our comments, we highlighted how approval of XTO’s permit was not legal under New Mexico’s air quality laws and regulations.
While the New Mexico Environment Department was still poised to approve XTO’s permit on September 7, 2020, the agency informed Guardians on September 2 that XTO withdrew its permit application.
However, from our standpoint, air quality concerns clearly factored heavily into XTO’s decision.
This new gas processing plant would have been a major installation, with XTO investing considerably in its planning. The company’s 700 page permit application contained exhaustive expert reports, schematics, studies, and analyses. Yet at the end of the day, XTO simply couldn’t demonstrate its new plant would protect clean air, health, and the climate.
XTO’s decision most likely reflects the fact that the company saw its proposed gas processing plant as a losing investment. Ultimately, the company’s decision is a stark reflection of the headwinds facing the oil and gas industry as they own up to their true environmental costs.
Finally, even the oil and gas industry recognizes it makes more economic sense to keep it in the ground.
WildEarth Guardians is on the frontlines challenging new fracking and new oil and gas industry infrastructure in the Permian Basin of southeast New Mexico. The latest decision by Exxon’s XTO Energy to withdraw an air pollution permit application is a testament to our ability to defend clean air and health from fossil fuels, and the potential of our strategies and tactics to yield big gains for the climate.
While air pollution from oil and gas extraction in New Mexico is on the rise, state regulators are effectively turning their backs on serious clean air problems and real solutions to meaningfully rein in the fracking industry’s toxic emissions.
It’s why WildEarth Guardians is working to confront New Mexico regulators and ensure they’re held accountable to putting climate, clean air, and health first.
It’s no secret that in New Mexico, the oil and gas industry is one the state’s largest sources of air pollution. Just in the last decade, companies have drilled unprecedented amounts of new wells, increasing oil and gas production more than 125%.
This development has unleashed a surge in emissions that have eroded clean air, filled the skies with more greenhouse gases, and undermined public health.
According to the American Lung Association, New Mexico now has failing air quality throughout the state. Reports further indicate that releases of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from the oil and gas industry are higher than ever.
These impacts have been especially felt by people living in the heavily fracked northwest and southeast corners of New Mexico.
While there are more than 57,000 active wells in the entire state, more than 21,500 are located in the northwest, often referred to as the Greater Chaco region, and more than 34,300 are in the southeast, often referred to as the Greater Carlsbad region.
This pollution has especially endangered Navajo communities in the Greater Chaco region, as well as people living in and near the town of Carlsbad.
Perhaps the most vivid sign of how bad oil and gas has made the air in New Mexico is to look at ground-level ozone monitoring data from across the state.
The key ingredient of smog, ground-level ozone is a poisonous gas that forms when pollution from tailpipes, smokestacks, and oil and gas operations react with sunlight.
Ground-level ozone is so poisonous that even at very small concentrations, it can cause serious respiratory damage. Because of its risks, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has established health standards for ozone, limiting concentrations in the ambient air to no more than 70 parts per billion.
While normally ozone is a big city problem, it’s well known that oil and gas extraction can be a major contributor to ozone pollution, particularly in the western U.S.
The two key pollutants most responsible for forming ozone are volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides. The oil and gas industry is a huge source of these gases.
Drilling, fracking, pipelines, and other operations and equipment release huge amounts of volatile organic compounds, a natural component of oil and gas and a key byproduct of production. Engines used for drilling, natural gas compression, trucks, pumps, and more are also major sources of nitrogen oxides.
Given this, it’s no surprise that the areas of New Mexico experiencing the highest ozone are the northwest and southeast portions of the state.
In the northwest counties of Rio Arriba and San Juan, ozone levels frequently exceed health standards and monitors in these counties are on the verge of violating Environmental Protection Agency health standards.
In fact, the ozone monitor in the town of Carlsbad in Eddy County has recorded the highest levels of ozone pollution in the state. Ozone has been so high in Carlsbad, it’s been comparable to pollution in big cities like Denver, Houston, and Los Angeles.
The numbers simply don’t lie: the oil and gas boom in New Mexico is fueling a dangerous smog boom.
In spite of high ozone, the New Mexico Environment Department continues to approve permits for the oil and gas industry to build new sources of air pollution.
Even in southeast New Mexico, where monitors are clearly violating ozone health standards adopted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Department is rubber-stamping dozens of new permits monthly.
Just this week, WildEarth Guardians commented on dozens of new permit proposals, including for a natural gas compressor station in Eddy County and for more than 20 permits for other oil and gas production facilities.
At a hearing in June, the Environment Department stated that in southeast New Mexico, more than 30 permits are being approved every month.
Each new permit authorizes companies to release more volatile organic compounds and more nitrogen oxides, the very pollutants that are fueling the region’s ozone violations.
From a health standpoint, it’s insane that the Environment Department keeps approving more permits for more pollution, effectively worsening ozone problems in the state. However, it’s also illegal.
Under New Mexico law, the Environment Department must deny pollution permits if they would cause or contribute to violations of air quality standards. The agency’s regulations explicitly state that permits can’t be approved where emissions would “cause or contribute” to air pollution in excess of ambient air quality standards.
That’s why over the past few months, WildEarth Guardians has been filing legal appeals of the New Mexico Environment Department’s approval of new permits for the oil and gas industry to pollute.
In petitions filed in May and June, we called on the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board, an appeals board comprised of citizens, to overturn the Environment Department’s permits. Just this week, we filed an expert report highlighting how the Department’s permitting defies facts and reality.
In the meantime, the New Mexico Environment Department keeps cranking out the permits. Just this week, the Department published notice that it intends to approve a pollution permit that would allow Exxon subsidiary, XTO Energy, build a massive new gas processing plant in southeast New Mexico.
To their credit, the New Mexico Environment Department has proposed to adopt new rules that the agency claims will reduce oil and gas industry emissions and rein in the state’s ozone pollution.
As part of an “Ozone Attainment Initiative,” the Department released draft regulations at the end of July and is now asking for public comment on the rules.
While a refreshing step forward for clean air in New Mexico, a closer look at the proposed rules leaves much to be desired.
For one, the Environment Department hasn’t completed any modeling to demonstrate the draft rules will actually reduce ozone to safe and healthy levels. While modeling is in the process of being completed for the “Ozone Attainment Initiative,” a recent presentation indicates it won’t actually be done until after November 2020.
The draft rules are also riddled with loopholes and exemptions, including a proposal to exclude small oil and gas well sites (often called “stripper wells”) from regulation. It’s estimated this “small well exemption” would apply to around 95% of all wells in New Mexico, effectively keeping the industry unregulated.
Also of concern is that the rules continue to allow the oil and gas industry to flare as a means to control air pollution. Burning gases to control emissions is a wasteful and, in many cases, just as polluting practice.
Not surprisingly, in a virtual public meeting held this week, the New Mexico Environment Department faced extensive criticism over the loopholes and exemptions in its draft regulations.
More importantly, the draft rules completely ignore the need to address disproportionate impacts to people and communities living in close proximity to well sites, particularly Tribal communities, people of color, and low income or other marginalized groups.
Put another way, the rules do nothing to advance environmental justice and protect the most vulnerable, most discriminated, and most disenfranchised in New Mexico. It’s shocking given the Environment Department’s own stated commitment to advancing environmental justice in the state.
To be sure, the regulations are only draft at this point and we still have a lot of work to do to review, critique, and make recommendations to the Environment Department.
However, it is disappointing that the Environment Department has not put forward draft regulations that seem to fully rise to the challenge of protecting clean air, climate, and health in New Mexico.
Right now, the New Mexico Environment Department is certainly not doing everything it can and should to safeguard air quality and health in New Mexico. Amid recent revelations a critical ozone monitor in Carlsbad fell into disrepair, it’s clear the Department has to step it up.
However, it’s also clear that the oil and gas industry’s refusal to keep its toxic air pollution in check is making it more difficult than ever for regulators to effectively protect people.
As the industry rebounds after plummeting oil and gas prices earlier this year, reports indicate flaring and venting of natural gas has surged in New Mexico.
Company’s also continue to flout clean air laws and violate their pollution permits. Just last month, the Environment Department fined a company more than $5 million for ongoing illegal releases of toxic gases. Earlier this year, the agency put several companies on notice of outstanding clean air violations.
And in the last five years, oil and gas companies have repeatedly reported illegal emissions and been busted for violating their permits. The map below, which is from a New Mexico Environment Department online interactive map, shows just a few facilities in southeast New Mexico that have reported excess emissions or that have cited for violations.
The New Mexico Environment Department clearly needs to up its game and actions, but with the oil and gas industry’s defiance to clean air mounting, the challenge for the Department is increasingly immense.
Still, the reprehensible actions of fracking companies are no excuse for the Department to not do everything possible–and legally required–to put clean air, climate, and health first in New Mexico. This means taking action to deny pollution permits and to ensure that new rules truly deliver the strongest safeguards possible.
And ultimately it means taking action to help New Mexico put an end to fracking and start keeping oil and gas in the ground. As we’ve highlighted, the state can’t possibly protect clean air and the climate so long as oil and gas extraction occurs with impunity.
Stay tuned for updates, including information on how you can weigh in and help make a difference for climate, clean air, and health in New Mexico and beyond!
WildEarth Guardians today filed a lawsuit to get Colorado back on track for climate action.
The legal action comes as Governor Jared Polis and his administration missed a July 1, 2020 deadline to ensure the state meets legally required greenhouse gas reduction targets, including a 26% reduction in emissions by 2025, a 50% reduction by 2030, and a 90% reduction by 2050.
In missing the July 1, 2020 deadline, Governor Polis isn’t just jeopardizing the state’s commitment to confronting the climate crisis, he’s also putting the state’s goal of climate justice at risk.
As we wrote earlier this week together with our friends with GreenLatinos, a lack of meaningful climate action puts disproportionately impacted people and communities, including those living in the shadow of the Suncor oil refinery north of Denver, at great risk.
Take Action! We need your help to really secure climate justice in Colorado. Tell Governor Jared Polis it’s time for real climate action.
Read the press release.
We’ve highlighted before how New Mexico’s plan to let the oil and gas industry dump their toxic waste onto crops and into the state’s streams is a horrible idea that threatens to undermine climate progress.
Sadly, despite calls for Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham to put the brakes on these plans, her administration has decided to kick things into high gear.
At the end of June, the state’s Oil Conservation Division announced it intends to amend its regulations to make it easier for the oil and gas industry to transport and use its toxic waste while drilling and fracking.
Worse, the proposed regulations would even authorize the dumping and discharge of this waste outside of oil and gas producing regions.
While billed as regulating “produced water,” the fluids that would be regulated under the proposed rules are anything but water. As reports across the U.S. have found, this “water” is actually a toxic cocktail of radioactive materials, heavy metals, proprietary fracking chemicals, and other contaminants that is known to be dangerous.
The Oil Conservation Division’s proposed regulations seem benign, but within the details lurks a disturbing devil. For example:
- The rules would allow oil and gas companies to use and transport “produced water” when drilling and fracking, provided that public health, the environment, and fresh water are protected. Unfortunately, there exist no standards or safeguards to actually protect public health, the environment, and fresh water from “produced water.” In fact, this waste is considered too toxic to treat. There is no way for the Commission to ensure that the use and transport of the oil and gas industry’s toxic waste will protect workers, groundwater, surface waters, and otherwise ensure the environment is not contaminated.
- The rules would allow the oil and gas industry to discharge or otherwise dump its toxic waste outside of oil and gas producing areas. Although the rules would allow this only where approved by the New Mexico Water Quality Control Commission, they explicitly imply that the Commission will at some point adopt rules that will actually allow the dumping of “produced water” onto lands and in streams. This is a scary proposition considering that there are no known methods to safely treat this waste. The Oil Conservation Division’s rules appear to set the stage for a more insidious plan to allow companies to dump their toxic waste into our environment.
Overall, the Oil Conservation Division’s rules would set a dangerous precedent. Rather than help New Mexico transition away from reliance on oil and gas, they would further entrench and enshrine the industry, jeopardizing the state’s health, environment, and its ability to confront the climate crisis.
The Oil Conservation Commission is holding a virtual public hearing on July 30 on their proposed regulations. Stay tuned for more information as we continue to dig in to protect New Mexico’s clean water.
We can’t afford to let New Mexico get fracked! TAKE ACTION: Don’t let the oil and gas industry dump its toxic fracking waste in New Mexico.
Colorado Governor Jared Polis and his administration yesterday missed a legally required deadline to propose new climate regulations, further setting back progress toward curbing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting the state.
By law, the Polis administration was required to propose new regulations to meet the state’s greenhouse gas reduction targets by July 1, 2020. That day has now passed with no new regulations.
With reports confirming the state was already not on track to meet its climate goals, WildEarth Guardians is stepping up to soon file suit to enforce the July 1, 2020 deadline and upping calls for Governor Polis to fulfill his commitment to climate progress in Colorado.
The Polis administration’s lack of effective climate action isn’t just jeopardizing the state’s ability to curb greenhouse gas emissions, it’s a major environmental justice concern. Landmark climate legislation passed in 2019 required the state to prioritize reducing greenhouse gases where emissions disproportionately impact Black and Latino communities, low income neighborhoods, and Indigenous peoples.
Calls for Governor Polis to confront environmental racism and advance environmental and climate justice have mounted in the wake of the George Floyd protests, emphasizing that social inequities are directly related to environmental inequities.
In spite of some positive steps to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, the Polis administration has fallen behind in achieving meaningful reductions. A recent letter from Polis’ Air Pollution Control Division confirms that current progress is “not sufficient” to meet the state’s legally required climate milestones.
In response to Colorado’s missed climate deadline, WildEarth Guardians is doubling down on calls for Governor Polis to:
- Immediately suspend approving air pollution permits for new sources of greenhouse gas emissions.
- Help retire the state’s largest industrial sources of climate pollution, including the Suncor oil refinery in north Denver, as quickly as possible.
- Commit Colorado to achieving 100% renewable electricity generation by 2030.
- Phase out fracking in the state by 2025.
Under House Bill 1261, which passed and was signed into the law by Governor Polis in 2019, Colorado must reduce greenhouse gas emissions 26% by 2025, 50% by 2030, and 90% by 2050.
In case you missed it, WildEarth Guardians’ Climate and Energy Program is restarting weekly Facebook Live updates, sharing with you the latest insight, news, and perspective on our work to confront the climate crisis here in the American West.
Join us every Wednesday at 1 PM mountain time on WildEarth Guardians’ Facebook page!
Our hope is that in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we can maintain effective outreach to our members and supporters and continue to keep people engaged, involved, and active. Our push for more virtual engagement is part of WildEarth Guardians’ broader effort to adapt and remain effective in this time of unprecedented crisis.
If you can’t make the live update, don’t worry. All updates are posted on WildEarth Guardians’ Facebook page and you can watch them anytime, check ’em out >>
In the meantime, you can watch our update from earlier this afternoon, we were joined by WildEarth Guardians’ Staff Attorney, Daniel Timmons, and Climate and Energy Program Attorney, Rebecca Fischer. The main topic of discussion was WildEarth Guardians’ latest call for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to put the brakes on selling public lands for fracking in New Mexico.
And stay plugged in to all of WildEarth Guardians’ upcoming virtual events, they’re all listed on our website here >>
The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting us all. Not only is it upending our lives and taxing our time and attention, it’s directly putting our health and safety at risk.
In spite of this, Colorado oil and gas regulators are pressing ahead to approve hundreds of fracking permits. Even worse, at the same time they’re also halting development of new rules to protect public health, safety, and the environment.
Colorado’s oil and gas industry is doing everything it can to avoid accountability to health in this time of crisis. They’re even suing to sidestep safeguards imposed by local communities. Sadly, the state’s regulators seem to be doing everything they can to bolster this unconscionable response.
While we’re weighing in on individual drilling permits and pleading with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to “Pause Permits During This Time of Crisis,” we’re also urging people to sign the petition calling on Governor Jared Polis to suspend all oil and gas extraction in the state.
In the meantime, we’re circulating the open letter below to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, please share widely! Join us in keeping the pressure on to put people before polluters.
Dear Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission:
WildEarth Guardians writes to object to the ongoing approval of drilling and location permits. In light of the current emergency declarations and stay at home orders issued by the Governor and numerous local governments, it is not appropriate for the Commission to approve new drilling permits that further threaten public health, safety, and the environment, or that require the public to engage in administrative processes.
Given the disruptive impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Coloradans are not able to meaningfully participate in the Commission’s permit review and approval process.
For many Coloradans who may be impacted by new drilling permits, their ability to weigh in is severely limited given the need to prioritize focusing on health, family and community stability, and work. An increasing number of Coloradans may actually be too sick to weigh in.
Additionally, the public is not currently able to request or obtain hearings to review any approved permits. With the Commission suspending new rulemaking proceedings, it is not acceptable to still require the affected public to engage in the permitting process.
Please deny proposed permits or suspend their approval until Colorado has weathered the COVID-19 pandemic and Coloradans can meaningfully engage in Commission activities that may affect their health, safety, and environment.
Over two dozen Indigenous, environmental, and community groups have called on the New Mexico State Office of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to adequately respond to the COVID-19 crisis, which has prevented the public and tribal governments from meaningful engagement in the agency’s management of public lands and resources, and immediately suspend all open public comment periods, planning processes, and major policy development.
Incredibly, in spite of the COVID-19 crisis and Governor Lujan Grisham’s stay-at-home order, the New Mexico BLM continues to move forward with plans to sell public lands for fracking, rollback environmental safeguards, adopt new plans for the management of public lands and resources, and authorize private development. The BLM has already taken extraordinary steps in New Mexico to minimize public participation in oil and gas decisions by reducing protest periods from 30 to 10 days, and the agency is currently accepting public comment on its controversial Farmington Resource Management Plan amendment, despite requests from the NM Congressional Delegation and the All Pueblo Council of Governors for suspension.
“It is unconscionable for BLM to be propping up polluters during a public health pandemic. Rolling back pollution controls will only exacerbate health issues; urgently, the agency must put public health first and halt the rubber stamping of more fracking approvals.” said Rebecca Sobel, Senior Campaigner for WildEarth Guardians.
Read the press release.
Our nation’s bedrock environmental law–the National Environmental Policy Act–is under attack by corporate polluters and their cronies in the Trump Administration, threatening our right to a healthy environment in the United States.
Fortunately, we have a chance to fight back against this brazen assault and defend our health and communities.
Most people have no clue what the National Environmental Policy Act is, but virtually everyone knows what it does.
Passed 50 years ago, the law ensures federal agencies analyze and fully disclose the environmental impacts of their activities. More importantly, it gives the public the right to be involved and to influence federal actions that may affect their environment.
Described as “our basic national charter for protection of the environment,” the National Environmental Policy Act has been a critical check on the activities of our federal government.
Often called NEPA (that’s pronounced “nee-puh”), the law enshrined the goal of environmental protection in the United States and enforced the need to involve the public in federal decisions. And since its passage, NEPA has worked tremendously.
It’s given communities a voice and sway when new highways are proposed through neighborhoods. It’s empowered local and state governments to stand up to federal agencies. It’s provided Tribes the tools needed to defend sacred lands. And it’s enabled watchdogs across the country to make a difference for people and the planet.
The law has truly been a ray of sunshine and for Americans.
For WildEarth Guardians, NEPA is absolutely key to protecting and restoring wildlife, wild places, wild rivers, and health in the American West.
For over 30 years, we’ve relied on the law to confront proposals by federal agencies to log old growth forests, dam rivers, decimate wildlife, destroy the climate, and desecrate sacred lands. We’ve relied on the law to mobilize support for safeguarding endangered species, protecting wilderness, and saving lands and waters throughout the American West.
Just last month, we filed suit in federal court to block the sale of nearly two million acres of public lands for fracking in five western states over the federal government’s failure to comply with NEPA. The case confronts the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s refusal to account for the climate impacts of authorizing more fossil fuel production and more greenhouse gas emissions.
For WildEarth Guardians, as well as countless other environmental, health, community, justice, Indigenous, and other advocates, NEPA is the backbone of our accountability efforts. It’s given us all the tools needed to stand up to private, often well-financed efforts to exploit our environment at the expense of our health and well-being.
Sadly, because groups like WildEarth Guardians have successfully used NEPA to defend our environment, it’s come under fire by polluters who view the law as an impediment to their ability to exploit communities and public resources.
Claiming the law is inefficient, cumbersome, and ineffective, corporate interests have for many years called for its gutting. Now, with Trump and his pro-polluter cadre in the White House, these interests are launching an unprecedented strike on our nation’s basic charter for environmental protection.
In a draft released on January 10, the White House Council on Environmental Quality published a proposed set of regulations that, if adopted, would effectively roll back and destroy NEPA as we know it (watch our recent Facebook Live check-in to learn more about these rollbacks).
The rules would completely rewrite regulations originally promulgated in 1982 and in doing so, completely upend our ability to hold our federal government accountable to protecting our environment. It’s not surprising that lobbyists for the nation’s polluters have described the rules as “exactly” what they recommended to the Trump administration.
Among the sweeping changes, the Trump administration’s proposal would:
- Strike language describing NEPA as “our nation’s basic charter for environmental protection” and instead describe the law as procedural and only requiring federal agencies to minimally disclose the environmental impacts of their actions;
- Severely restrict opportunities for public involvement in federal agency actions affecting the environment;
- In many situations, exempt federal agencies from having to complete environmental reviews;
- Let agencies shortcut environmental reviews and to reject science and public comments;
- Undermine transparency by allowing agencies to withhold environmental information from the public;
- Make it more difficult for watchdogs to enforce NEPA before administrative appeals boards or federal courts; and
- Prohibit federal agencies from analyzing and disclosing cumulative environmental impacts, or the impacts of their actions when added to the impacts of other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable activities.
That last proposed change is particularly distressing. The duty for the federal government to address the cumulative impacts of its actions is a critical and powerful means of ensuring agencies don’t worsen environmental problems, like climate change.
By eliminating the duty to account for cumulative impacts, the proposed changes would completely erase the federal government’s responsibility to protect our environment.
In keeping with the anti-public spirit of the proposal, the Council on Environmental Quality has also provided only 60 days for people to provide comments on the draft regulations and scheduled only two public hearings–one in Denver and one in Washington, D.C.–where only a little more than 100 people will be allowed to comment.
There’s no doubt that if approved, the proposed rules would effectively shut the American public out of the operations of the federal government, leaving our environment, our communities, our health, and our families more vulnerable than ever.
In response to Trump’s attack on NEPA, a massive coalition of advocates across the country are gearing up to fight back.
The resistance is kicking off in Denver, Colorado this Tuesday, February 11. That day, the Trump administration is holding its first of two public hearings on the proposed rollbacks.
While many will be speaking at the formal hearing, the Council on Environmental Quality provided only 112 speaking slots that were filled in less than five minutes due to extremely high demand. That’s why most people will be speaking and rallying across the street as part of the “Peoples Hearing to Protect NEPA,” an all-day action meant to uplift and empower the voices that were excluded by the Trump administration.
Groups are also pushing back in other critical ways. Last month, WildEarth Guardians joined hundreds of other groups in demanding the Trump administration extend the public comment period for the proposed rollbacks and calling for more public hearings.
Congressional leaders are also rising up to defend NEPA. In a bipartisan letter last month, U.S. Representative Diana DeGette of Colorado, a Democrat, and Representative Francis Rooney of Florida, a Republican, were joined by hundreds of other members of the U.S. House in calling on the Council on Environmental Quality to back down from the proposed rollbacks.
In the meantime, now, more than ever, we need your voice to help derail these terrible rollbacks to NEPA. If you haven’t yet, sign our petition and join thousands of others who are rising up to speak out for our environment and our voice.
Together, we can thwart Trump and his gang of polluters in the White House. Together, we can #ProtectNEPA.
Today, Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Representatives Ben Ray Lujan and Deb Haaland of New Mexico, with the support of State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard, the All Pueblo Council of Governors, and Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, introduced the “Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act,” in the U.S. Senate and House, which would create a Chaco Protection Zone around Chaco Canyon.
The legislation would withdraw the oil, gas, coal and other minerals from federal public land within an approximate 10-mile buffer zone around the Park. Importantly, the legislation would allow for the termination of non-producing federal leases within the Protection Zone and prohibit the Secretary of Interior from extending them.
The legislation also acknowledges the broader Chaco cultural landscape across New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and Utah, and recognizes the need for “additional studies…to address health, safety and environmental impacts to communities.”
From my perspective, this legislation is worthy of some major applause.
We are grateful to Senators Udall and Heinrich and Representatives Lujan and Haaland for introducing a Greater Chaco bill that better protects Indigenous communities, sacred lands and the climate. The intersection of climate justice and sacred landscapes calls for bold leadership and that’s what all Americans are getting in this bill.
I want to commend both Senators and Representatives for listening to community concerns over the last year and responding by better protecting Navajo communities and the climate from the threat of fossil fuel extraction. When this bill becomes law it will provide a beachhead of protections for the Greater Chaco region that, we hope, will be the beginning of a regional transitions to more equitable economies.
We still have considerable work to do enact this legislation and defend communities and the climate from the reckless actions of the Trump Administration and yet today we pause to acknowledge the hard work that Senators Udall and Heinrich have engaged in.
We live in increasingly complex and challenging times and we believe our solutions must reflect that complexity. By recognizing the intersectionality of climate justice, community resilience and the need for energy and economic transition in the Greater Chaco region this bill creates a framework to protect the health and well-being of this sacred region and its peoples.
Thank you to Senators Udall and Heinrich and Representatives Haaland and Luján.