Bill Asking BLM to Stop New Chaco Canyon Drilling Gets Hearing Today
SANTA FE, N.M. – Navajo leaders are expected to speak today at a committee hearing at the Roundhouse on oil and gas drilling near Chaco Culture National Historical Park. They support an advisory measure before the House Committee on Energy, Environment and Natural Resources that would ask the Bureau of Land Management to put a moratorium on new exploration until after an environmental study is completed. Existing operations would not be affected.
Representative Derrick Lente, who introduced the bill, says the tribes consider the area to be sacred and have a range of other concerns.
"It impacts the air they breathe, what they smell," he said. "They have to avoid large trucks going back and forth on tribal roads, open pits that sometimes they find their cattle in. They talk about the unknowns in regards to frack quakes and what might happen later on."
The oil and gas industry argues that their methods are safe and use the latest technology. More than 90 percent of the land already has been leased to oil and gas, with another 800 acres sold at auction on January 25th. The BLM is revising its long-term management plan for the area and has hosted a series of public meetings, including one last Thursday. The prior version of the plan does not address fracking because it came out in 2003, before fracking became viable in that area.
Lente says the oil and gas industry and local activists need to agree on a baseline set of facts, which is why he is calling for a study to be done before more exploration takes place.
"The disconnect has been, in a lot of cases, that there has been no true and verified study on the effects of fracking in New Mexico in that area," he explained. "So, when people make these claims, the other side will debunk them, simply saying, 'Well, it's not been verified.'"
Lente also will join dozens of outdoor and environmental groups for "Water and Wildlife Day" at the Roundhouse on Wednesday, where they will oppose fracking and advocate for measures to save the Mexican gray wolf. They also will conduct lobby training for the general public.