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In Wake of Court Ruling, Coalition Calls for Moratorium on Fracking in Greater Chaco Region

May 17, 2019
Rebecca Sobel, (267) 402-0724, rsobel@wildearthguardians.org
In This Release
Climate + Energy  
#GreaterChaco, #JustTransition, #KeepItInTheGround
Santa Fe, NM–A coalition today called on the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to pause drilling and leasing in the Greater Chaco region given the holding of a federal appeals court ruling last week.

On May 7, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit held the Bureau illegally approved dozens of oil and gas drilling permits when the agency failed to account for the cumulative impacts of hydraulic fracturing near Chaco Canyon and Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

The Bureau of Land Management has approved hundreds of wells that are using multi-stage fracking and horizontal drilling to tap the region’s Mancos shale formation.  While 91% of the region is already leased to oil and gas, the Bureau estimates more than 3,000 Mancos shale wells are likely to ultimately be developed.

The Court ultimately overturned 25 drilling permits.  However, the court’s holding has direct implications for all drilling and oil and gas leasing where industry is tapping the Mancos shale.

In today’s letter, a coalition of over 40 Tribal leaders, environmental, community, and energy groups representing over 5 million members, called out the Bureau Land Management for routinely ignoring the cumulative impacts of Mancos shale development when approving new drilling and leasing.

In light of this, the coalition demanded the agency pause the issuance of new permits, the development of permits that have been issued, and the sale of new oil and gas leases.

A copy of the letter can be found here.


“Regardless of Secretary Bernhard’s disregard for the climate crisis, the Bureau of Land Management must heed the court’s order and halt rampant fracking in Greater Chaco until the agency can abide by the law and address the cumulative impacts of drilling on our culture, communities and climate.  The court has ruled that the Bureau of Land Management illegally approved drilling in the Greater Chaco Landscape, but the agency continues to permit fracking with abandon, even proposing more aggressive extraction plans for the area and refusing requests for public engagement.”

“The court just ruled against the Bureau of Land Management for unlawfully issuing oil and gas drilling permits for Greater Chaco without performing the proper environmental reviews.  The same flawed methodology was used for years, and continues to this day. The only responsible thing for BLM to do is to pause while it determines how to comply with the court’s order in the whole of Greater Chaco.”

“It is time for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to listen to the People and now the 10th U.S. District Court, has held that the BLM illegally approved oil and gas drilling permits when the agency failed to account for the cumulative impacts of hydraulic fracturing near Chaco Canyon and Chaco Culture National Historical Park, oil and gas development must stop.  If the Federal Appeals Court held that the BLM cannot approve drilling and leasing without addressing the cumulative impacts of hydraulic fracturing, then they must implement a Moratorium on further fracking development.  Otherwise, they are breaking the Law, again.”

“In light of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeal ruling, BLM needs to address the aggregated impacts of hydraulic drilling before any leases or drilling is approved.  BLM must halt all fracking to conduct the needed studies that will prove what we have long known- fracking isn’t a safe extraction method and we must transition away from fossil fuels.”

  • Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, ien@igc.org

“Thousands of wells are impacted by this ruling. It’s time for the BLM to alter their practices of a blank check to the oil & gas industry and fulfill their obligations to the public and public land in their care.  Lease sales and permits must cease immediately and active permits must be suspended.  Furthermore, they must work with local communities in complying with the court ruling.”

“The court’s ruling is a significant step for holding the BLM accountable for illegally approving fracking permits in Greater Chaco. The BLM continues its chronic practice of permitting drilling without adequately analyzing the impacts. It’s time for the BLM to adhere to the law and cease auctioning off our public lands for industry profit and everyone else’s loss.”

“The court’s ruling affirms what our coalition has been saying for years – it is both reckless and illegal to approve industrial oil and gas extraction without a cumulative impact analysis. Now the only responsible course of action for the BLM moving forward is to halt the approval of all drilling permits until the agency completes a comprehensive analysis of cumulative impacts of Mancos share development and all other resource issues affecting public lands in consultation with tribes and affected communities”.

“The BLM’s lawless and ruthless industrialization of the Greater Chaco Region must end now.  Blinded by fracking industry influence, the agency has completely abandoned its duty to protect people and the environment.”

“It’s a slap in the face to continue permitting new drilling when the court has shown that agency failed to follow the rules.  Public safety and environmental protection must come first. There should be no other response from the BLM than to pause new permits.”

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