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Protect Communities, Protect the Climate: No New Leases

March 28, 2019
Rebecca Sobel, WildEarth Guardians, (267) 402-0724, rsobel@wildearthguardians.org
In This Release
Climate + Energy  
#GreaterChaco, #KeepItInTheGround
Photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/wildearth_guardians/albums/72157679566883758

Santa Fe, N.M. – Crowds gathered today for a climate strike in front of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) state office in Santa Fe to protest the lease sale of 11,000 acres of public and ancestral tribal lands in Greater Chaco and Greater Carlsbad regions. The BLM is moving forward with this controversial lease sale despite having received over 33,000 protest comments from tribal leaders, environmental groups, and members of the public expressing concerns that the sale would have negative impacts on cultural resources, public health, and the climate.

“How many more of these lease sales will we have to protest and comment on?” said Navajo Nation Council Delegate Daniel Tso. “The BLM hasn’t completed the required cultural resource studies, and hasn’t consulted the Diné community members in the areas that industry has selected for their resource development. We are the first holders of the land, yet we are the last to be given notice. Pure water is more valuable than the oil and gas that is locked and tightly held by our Earth Mother. She’s saving the precious gift of life – water –  for the generations of our people. The mega corporations cannot be allowed to sustain themselves at the cost of our future generations. There has to be a balance point: people over money.”

In striking for the climate, protesters drew the strong connection between oil and gas leasing and climate change. Building on energy galvanized by the 1.4 million people who marched March 15 during international school strike for the climate, today’s action also highlighted a recent precedent-setting federal court decision in which a federal judge halted a lease sale in Wyoming because the BLM failed to account for the climate consequences of selling public and ancestral tribal lands for fracking.

“BLM chronically fails to analyze the total costs of its drilling program to climate change, culture, or community health,” said Rebecca Sobel, Senior Climate and Energy Campaigner for WilldEarth Guardians, the lead plaintiff in the recent court ruling. “The federal oil and gas leasing program already accounts for more than 25% of U.S. climate pollution, and what do we have to show for it besides more intense climate disasters? While New Mexico’s oil and gas production has increased, the state still ranks lowest in the nation for child poverty, education, and welfare.”

The vast majority of lands managed by the BLM in the San Juan Basin of Greater Chaco and in the Permian Basin around the Greater Carlsbad area are already leased for oil and gas development. While residents have been experiencing the impacts of resource extraction for decades, the BLM has failed to take a hard look at the cumulative effects of development for communities, the landscape, and the climate.

“BLM has repeatedly ignored the concerns of tribal leaders and impacted community members as the agency continues to permit fracking activities they’ve failed to analyze or mitigate,” said Miya-King Flaherty, Our Wild New Mexico Organizer with the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter. “Communities have been forced to bear the burden of funding health assessments and documenting the health impacts of fracking because BLM refuses to do its job. Until the BLM stops prioritizing oil and gas development above all else, the public will continue to speak out and demand stronger protections.”

See WildEarth Guardians’ map of the March 2019 lease sale.

Additional Statements:

“Here we are again! We have not heard anything from BLM about our past comments and protests. BLM has not fulfilled their requirements for Tribal Consultations. They just keep on selling these leases. Something has to happen to get their attention. We will continue to take a stand”.

-Samuel Sage, Counselor Chapter Community Service Coordinator, samuelsage@hotmail.com

“Yet again, the people have shown their opposition and concern about protecting not just the cultural landscape of the Greater Chaco Region, but the living culture as well. Time and time again, we show up with letters, we show up with our bodies and spirits, and constantly we are ignored. When will the Bureau of Land Management recognize that it is their duty to serve their constituents and the land. We have time and time again seen our lands, water, air, sacred sites and objects desecrate right before our eyes. And again, we are still voicing our opposition on extractive industries on our ancestral homelands. BLM listen to the indigenous nations and communities who oppose non-renewable energies.”

-Pueblo Action Alliance, puebloactionalliance@gmail.com

“Another BLM land lease sale protest/sit-in, Again!   We are going to have to stop meeting like this way! When will the BLM listen to the people, instead of self-praise and dollars raised that they get to promote in a “record land lease sales” press release.   Enough BLM, of patting yourself and your colleagues on the back for making money off the “Peoples” land, we do not want fracking and oil and gas development in our backyards that will contaminate our Sacred Water, Land and Air.  LISTEN!”

-Terry Sloan, Director, Southwest Native Cultures, tas@sloancompany.net, 505.858.0050

“This lease sale is just another example of the BLM putting the cart before the horse. We’ve been waiting for years for the BLM to complete its Resource Management Plans for the Greater Chaco. But the agency continues to allow new fracking wells without first conducting a robust assessment of how this development affects communities, cultural resources, the environment, and the climate.  There has been a clear lack of consultation with impacted communities about oil and gas development in the region. Today we’re taking a stand once again to say that’s not right”.

-Mike Eisenfeld, Energy and Climate Program Manager, San Juan Citizens Alliance, mike@sanjuancitizens.org

“Federal environmental law compels BLM to provide a more honest vision of the devastating climate effects of their national oil and gas program.The New Mexico BLM field offices need to get on board with their responsibilities, and the climate advocacy community in New Mexico will not rest until they do.”

-Julia Guarino, Attorney, Western Environmental Law Center, guarino@westernlaw.org, 575-751-0351

“The relentless quest for fossil fuels must stop NOW.  The future health and wellbeing of Mother Earth is at stake with no time to spare. The continued extraction and burning of fossil fuels must be a thing of the past.  The BLM and all government agencies must take responsibility, listen to the people and create a vision for the future. We will not stand by quietly as our water is polluted, our air is fouled and our children’s legacy is squandered for the gain of the wealthy. We call for a just and immediate transition to 100% renewables. We will settle for nothing less.”

-Eleanor Bravo, Southwest Director, Food & Water Watch/Food & Water Action ebravo@fwwatch.org 505-730-8474

“We call on the Bureau of Land Management to hear us clearly when we say, “Enough! Stop leasing public land!”. Allowing the gas and oil industry to use these valuable and sacred lands for their own gain threatens to permanently harm the people and resources in the surrounding communities. Not only is the air, water, and health of local tribes in constant danger but the process of extracting gas and oil is causing irreversible climate change that endangers all life on earth. The BLM hasn’t done the proper impact studies and is, therefore, acting irresponsibly when it leases land to an industry that has shown time and time again that its only concern is profit.”

-Jenni Siri, Frack Free Four Corners, (260) 693-7672, info@frackfree4.org

“In order for New Mexico to fully confront our role in climate disruption, we must break our dependence on oil and gas extraction. While New Mexico is working to transition our state to renewable or clean energy generation in our electricity sector, our state leaders feign ignorance toward any climate responsibility for extraction, exportation, and combustion of New Mexico’s oil and gas across the globe. New Energy Economy joins this Climate Strike and stands in opposition to this lease sale because it threatens the health of frontline communities, our cultural traditions of land, water, and air stewardship, and the future of our Mother Earth.”

-Mariel Nanasi, Executive Director, New Energy Economy, mariel@seedsbeneaththesnow.com

Other Contact
Daniel Tso, Navajo Nation Council Delegate, (928) 318-0039, detso49@yahoo.com, Miya King-Flaherty, Our Wild New Mexico Organizer, Sierra Club-Rio Grande Chapter, (505) 301-0863, miya.king-flaherty@sierraclub.org