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Lawsuit Filed to Defend Climate From Fracking in Southeast New Mexico’s Greater Carlsbad Region
“We can’t frack our way to a safe climate,” said Jeremy Nichols, Climate and Energy Program Director for WildEarth Guardians. “This case is about holding our federal government accountable to the realities of our climate crisis and the need to rein in fossil fuel production and carbon emissions.”
WildEarth Guardians’ suit targets the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s sale of public lands to oil and gas companies in 2017 and 2018. Responding to demands by Exxon, Chevron, Oxy, and other companies, the agency sold nearly 70,000 acres of lands in Eddy, Lea, Chavez, and Roosevelt Counties, New Mexico.
These include lands near the towns of Roswell and Carlsbad, as well as near the world renowned Carlsbad Caverns National Park. A map of these lands can be viewed here >>
In selling these lands, the Bureau handed industry a right to develop and produce oil and gas, opening the door for massive amounts of climate pollution. In spite of this, the agency refused to disclose the climate costs of more oil and gas development and to take steps to limit or even prevent new development.
“Plain and simple, we’re holding the Bureau of Land Management accountable to safeguarding our climate,” said Daniel Timmons, Staff Attorney for WildEarth Guardians. “It’s time for the agency to stop denying facts and reality and start doing its part to confront the climate crisis.”
The Greater Carlsbad region, which encompasses the western portion of the Permian oil and gas producing region, has seen a surge in development in recent years. Spurred by horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the oil and gas industry has transformed the region into the world’s largest oil producer.
There are now more than 50,000 oil and gas wells in the region, which has also turned the Greater Carlsbad region into a massive source of climate pollution.
The Bureau of Land Management estimates oil and gas production just on public lands (which comprises 40% of all oil and gas development in the region) unleashes more than 60.9 million metric tons of climate pollution annually.
This includes 13 million metric tons of carbon released just from on-the-ground production activities in the region and 47.9 million metric tons of carbon released when the produced oil and gas is consumed. 99% of this climate pollution is carbon dioxide, not methane.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s greenhouse gas equivalency calculator, 60.9 million metric tons of carbon equals the amount released in a year by more than 15 coal-fired power plants.
Recent reports indicate that unchecked fracking in the entire Permian Basin will unleash more than 55 billion metric tons of carbon by 2050, exhausting 10% of the global carbon budget needed to limit worldwide average temperature rise to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.
“Climate pollution from oil and gas production in the Greater Carlsbad region is just as bad as coal-fired power plants, yet the Bureau of Land Management continues to give industry a free pass to pollute,” said Becca Fischer, Climate and Energy Program Attorney for WildEarth Guardians. “This is where we take a stand for our climate and start keeping our fossil fuels in the ground.”
Today’s suit comes as the Trump Administration turns its back on the need to rein in federal fossil fuel production to protect the climate. Last fall, the U.S. Geological Survey found that coal, oil, and gas produced from federal lands and waters accounts for nearly 25% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
At the same time, federal climate researchers also released an updated National Climate Assessment, reporting that global warming is projected to worsen “without substantial and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions.”
In March, WildEarth Guardians won a landmark lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management over the agency’s failure to account for the climate impacts of selling public lands for oil and gas development in Wyoming. The suit today seeks to build upon and enforce that ruling.
WildEarth Guardians’ complaint was filed in U.S. District Court in New Mexico.