By Miya King-Flaherty/Our Wild New Mexico
New Mexico is now the third-biggest oil and gas producer in the nation, as the Permian Basin in southeastern New Mexico is touted as having some of the largest oil and gas reserves in the world.
But as the climate and health risks of oil and gas consumption grow more and more perilous, the Land of Enchantment continues to build a strong force of resistance against the Trump Administration’s old-energy agenda, and it will only get stronger.
In October, the New Mexico Bureau of Land Management held a short 10-day formal protest period for its December online auction of nearly 89,000 acres of public and ancestral tribal lands for oil and gas development, including more than 44,000 acres in the Greater Chaco region in northwest New Mexico. Environmental, citizen and indigenous grassroots groups collected and hand-delivered to the BLM state headquarters in Santa Fe more than 10,000 protest comments opposing the lease sales.
Both the BLM Farmington and Rio Puerco Field offices manage lands in northwestern New Mexico’s Greater Chaco region. Neither agency has completed its process to thoroughly analyze and put in place plans that mitigate the impacts of fracking, which combines multi-stage horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (unconventional fracking).
The Farmington Field Office Resource Management Plan Amendment and the Rio Puerco Resource Management Plan revision processes are still ongoing. These plans are meant to ensure that community health and environmental protections are in place before any more drilling occurs.
The controversial December lease sale drew widespread condemnation from Navajo chapter houses, including the Eastern Navajo Agency Council and Tri-Chapter Council — comprising Ojo Encino, Torreon/Starlake, and Counselor chapters in the Greater Chaco region — the All Pueblo Council of Governors, the Navajo Nation, U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan-Grisham, hundreds of thousands of public citizens, and more than 100 organizations.
Even in the face of such great opposition, the BLM moved forward with the Dec. 5 and 6 online selloff of public lands that resulted in bids of more than $39 million. However, the BLM Farmington field office did withdraw all parcels that were nominated for the lease sale, a small victory, but all 30 parcels nominated by the Rio Puerco Field office were sold.
We remain hopeful and will continue to fight for greater protections of the Greater Chaco region, for the health and safety of impacted communities, for a moratorium until management plans are complete and thorough, and for tribal consultation to take place with all tribes. We have a fighting chance with a new governor and state land commissioner, the unwavering support from our congressional delegates, and the growing momentum we have built through your support, as showcased by the BLM Dec. 5 protest that was attended by nearly 200 clean-air and water advocates.
We’ll need your support, because our next battle will be the March 2019 lease sale.