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Thousands Speak out for Climate and Chaco Canyon, Call for Canceling New Mexico Oil and Gas Lease Sale

September 2, 2016
Rebecca Sobel, (267) 402-0724, rsobel@wildearthguardians.org
In This Release
Climate + Energy  
#GreaterChaco, #KeepItInTheGround
Friday, September 2, 2016
Thousands Speak out for Climate and Chaco Canyon, Call for Canceling New Mexico Oil and Gas Lease Sale

New Mexicans Demand Obama Administration Protect Public Lands and Communities, Keep Oil and Gas In the Ground
Contact: Rebecca Sobel, (267) 402-0724, rsobel@wildearthguardians.org

Additional Contacts:

KyleTisdel, Western Environmental Law Center, (575) 613-8050, tisdel@westernlaw.org

MiyaKing-Flaherty, Sierra Club, (505)301-0863, miya.king-flaherty@sierraclub.org

SantaFe, NM—A coalition today called on the Obama Administration to rein inunchecked fracking near Chaco Canyon and abandon its plans to auction offnearly 1,000 acres of public lands to the oil and gas industry in GreaterChaco.

“Theintensity of oil and gas drilling and fracking in Greater Chaco is remarkablefor any landscape, but for this to occur without any analysis of its effects,next door to native communities and in an archaeological site is beyond thepale,” said Kyle Tisdel of the Western Environmental Law Center. “Isthere no combination of ill effects that will give BLM pause in facilitatingthis fracking frenzy?”

Informal comments submitted to the Bureau of Land Management, WildEarthGuardians, the Western Environmental Law Center, and others called for theagency to protect the Greater Chaco region of northwest New Mexico from the oiland gas industry. A surge in fracking has descended upon the region, puttingChaco Canyon and neighboring Navajo communities at risk.

TheBureau of Land Management’s proposal to auction off more public lands in theGreater Chaco region to the oil and gas industry comes as fracking has taken aterrible toll on the area. On July 11, a fracking site explosion in the areacaused 55 residents to evacuate their homes. Some remain hospitalized.

“Thecommunities living near Chaco are impacted by fracking pollutants on a dailybasis. They experience uncontrollable flaring, poor air quality and are exposedto other chemical hazards,” said Miya King-Flaherty, Public Lands Fellow forthe Sierra Club. “Fracking in the Greater Chaco area is unchecked and oil and gasindustries recklessly release methane and other VOCs affecting the air quality,while exacerbating climate change.”

Theproposed leasing also comes as the oil and gas industry has been identified asa key contributor to climate pollution in the region.

Inspite of obvious public health and environmental threats, the Bureau of LandManagement continues to assert there are “no significant impacts” associatedwith expanded oil and gas development.

In2015, a coalition of groups filed suit over the Bureau of Land Management’songoing approval of oil and gas development in the Greater Chaco region.Although the agency has acknowledged that it lacks a plan to ensure protectionof air, water, wildlife, and communities, it continues to approve leasing and drilling.

“Fortoo long, the Bureau of Land Management has allowed the fracking industry torun amok in the San Juan Basin without regard for cultural or environmentalpreservation, or community safety,” said Rebecca Sobel, Senior Climate andEnergy Campaigner for WildEarth Guardians. “Fracking sites and pipelines areexploding across New Mexico and, to add insult to injury, people are left inthe dark regarding health and safety concerns. That the Bureau of LandManagement continues to ignore the public outcry and is considering leasingeven more land in Greater Chaco in complete disregard for community safety andclimate impacts is not only unlawful, it’s unconscionable.”

Last week, WildEarth Guardians and Physiciansfor Social Responsibility filed a landmark federal lawsuit challenging the ObamaAdministration’s leasing of 379,950 acres of public lands for failing toaccount for greenhouse gas emissions. Last year, groups filed a lawsuit and preliminary injunction challenging BLM’s approval of fracking wells in GreaterChaco without considering the impact that such development would have on theenvironment and human health. While plaintiffs await a ruling from the TenthCircuit, BLM continues to approve drilling permits without completing a studyof the impacts, as the law requires, already having leased more than 91 percentof public lands in the area to oil and gas interests.

A copy of the groups’comments is available here and here.


Other Contact
Kyle Tisdel, Western Environmental Law Center, (575) 613-8050, tisdel@westernlaw.org