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Guardians Renews Fight in Court as Trump Papers Over Chaco Fracking Impacts

May 15, 2020
Rebecca Sobel, (267) 402-0724, rsobel@wildearthguardians.org
In This Release
Climate + Energy  
#GreaterChaco, #KeepItInTheGround
Santa Fe, NM – WildEarth Guardians and allies today filed a new lawsuit to defend the sensitive cultural landscape of the Greater Chaco region from illegal fracking approved by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.  

“In its zeal to do the oil and gas industry’s bidding, the Trump Administration simply refuses to follow the law,” said Rebecca Fischer, WildEarth Guardians’ Climate and Energy Program Attorney. “For climate, communities, health, and for the cultural integrity of the Greater Chaco landscape, we just can’t allow this.”

The latest federal lawsuit, filed by Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment, San Juan Citizens Alliance, WildEarth Guardians, the Sierra Club, and the Western Environmental Law Center, challenges the approval of 370 oil and gas wells in the Greater Chaco region of northwest New Mexico.

The suit targets the Bureau of Land Management’s refusal to objectively assess whether drilling permits should be denied given their cumulative environmental and health impacts in the region.

In recent years, fracking has surged across the Chaco landscape as companies have employed horizontal drilling techniques to tap the Mancos shale formation. This extraction technique requires more water, releases more pollution, and poses more intensive environmental impacts than traditional oil and gas extraction that has occurred in the region.

New fracking has even encroached closer to Navajo communities in the region, which have been besieged by destroyed roads, spills, increased truck traffic, and more air pollution.

With the COVID-19 crisis disproportionately impacting Navajo communities in the region, there is mounting concern that oil and gas extraction is exacerbating an already-severe public health crisis.

Since 2010, hundreds of new drilling permits have been approved. The Bureau is considering approving thousands more.

“The cultural, environmental, and community health of the Greater Chaco region is literally on the line here,” said Rebecca Sobel, WildEarth Guardians’ Senior Climate and Energy Campaigner.  “We just can’t afford to let the Trump Administration throw health under the bus to appease oil and gas companies.”

In May of last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit ruled the Bureau of Land Management illegally approved dozens of new oil and gas wells in the Greater Chaco region. The court held the agency failed to properly account for, disclose, and address the cumulative environmental and health impacts of fracking in the region.

The ruling implicates all wells approved by the Bureau of Land Management in the region under the same illegal rationale rejected by the 10th Circuit.

Today’s complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in New Mexico challenges all remaining illegally approved oil and gas wells and calls on the court to “vacate” or undo past drilling approvals.

Other Contact
Rebecca Fischer, WildEarth Guardians, (406) 698-1489, rfischer@wildearthguardians.org

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