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Court finds fracking in Greater Chaco violates cultural protections

April 3, 2018
Rebecca Sobel, 505-216-6826, rsobel@wildearthguardians.org
In This Release
Climate + Energy  
#GreaterChaco, #KeepItInTheGround
Samantha Ruscavage-Barz, WildEarth Guardians, 505-401-4180, sruscavagebarz@wildearthguardians.org
Kyle Tisdel, Western Environmental Law Center, 575-770-7501, tisdel@westernlaw.org
Mario Atencio, Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment, (505) 321-9974, mpatencio@gmail.com
Mike Eisenfeld, San Juan Citizens Alliance, 505-360-8994, mike@sanjuancitizens.org

Santa Fe, NM – A federal court has ruled that fracking in the Greater Chaco region of northwestern New Mexico violated cultural protection laws, a victor for safeguarding this sacred landscape.

Over the weekend, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico issued a preliminary order indicating it will soon rule in favor of advocate groups challenging hundreds of fracking approvals in the Greater Chaco region by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

The court’s order indicates fracking violated the National Historic Preservation Act, writing “some of the wells whose [areas of potential effect] contain historical sites, because some of the cultural resource analyses for those wells are conclusory, contain no finding, or are entirely absent from the record.”

“Section 106 consultation with Indian Tribes in The National Historic Preservation Act is completely ignored,” said Mario Antencio, a Navajo resident and Board member of Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment.

“Though the full implications of the ruling remain uncertain, we are pleased the court recognized BLM’s violation of the National Historic Preservation Act by recklessly approving hundreds of fracking wells across an unparalleled historic landscape and the home for current tribal communities,” said Kyle Tisdel, attorney with Western Environmental Law Center representing the groups. “We remain hopeful that the court’s forthcoming decision provides meaningful relief for these egregious violations and the threatened desecration of our cultural history.”

“This ruling underscores that the Bureau of Land Management has been turning its back on the cultural sanctity of the Greater Chaco region,” said Samantha Ruscavage-Barz, Senior Staff Attorney for WildEarth Guardians. “While preliminary, this ruling is another critical step toward securing lasting protection for the sacred fabric of their replaceable Greater Chaco landscape.”

“The court decision suggests that consultation processes concerning public land management of the region will need refinement and clarity,” said Mike Eisenfeld of San Juan Citizens Alliance.

The order does not specify the scope of the violations, nor does it indicate the nature of the forthcoming relief, but the groups are hopeful the case will result in correct and meaningful change on the ground in Greater Chaco in consideration of irreplaceable and sacred cultural resources.

Earlier this year, the Navajo Nation and All Pueblo Council of Governors’ called for a moratorium on fracking-related  activities in the Greater Chaco region. This request came on the heels of demands from 15 Navajo Nation Chapters resolutions and dozens of letters from over one hundred organizations represented by the Protect Greater Chaco Coalition.

New Mexico Sens. Udall and Heinrich as well as Reps. Lujan-Grisham and Luján have also vocally opposed reckless oil and gas development in this area.