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Jewell Asked to Monitor Fracking near Chaco Canyon

PHOTO: U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is being asked by New Mexico's U.S. senators to take a closer look at federal government's oil and gas development policies near Chaco Culture National Historic Park. Photo courtesy National Park Service.
PHOTO: U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is being asked by New Mexico's U.S. senators to take a closer look at federal government's oil and gas development policies near Chaco Culture National Historic Park. Photo courtesy National Park Service.
May 18, 2015

SANTA FE, N.M. – New Mexico's congressional delegation is asking U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to monitor a possible escalation of fracking in an area considered sacred by many Native Americans.

In a letter to Jewell, Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan stress the historic, cultural and ecological significance of Chaco Culture National Historic Park.

Teresa Seamster with the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club says she is hopeful that Jewell will help protect Chaco Canyon.

"I think what they're saying to Sally Jewell is, 'Look, this isn't just a piece of wasteland in New Mexico,’” Seamster explains. “’This is highly significant, culturally significant, on a worldwide level.'"

Udall also wants Interior Department officials to keep him posted as they consider offering more oil and gas leases in the region. He points out that energy development on public and tribal lands increased by 81 percent between 2008 and 2014.

Anna Rondon, a Navajo with the activist group Idle No More in the Four Corners region, says fracking threatens to pollute water and air in an area that houses centuries of history for many tribes and Pueblo people.

"It was a shared world trade center, an international world trade center,” she explains. “It served as a spiritual congregation for the water, for the air, for the land, for the people that went there, and they traded."

Rondon adds that fracking is disturbing ancient lands in many areas.

"It you look at what's going on around this country on Indian territories, it's the same old cavalry coming into our country,” she maintains. “And we have sacred sites, and those are being attacked as well, not only Chaco Canyon."

A U.S. Geological Survey report released last month concludes man-made earthquakes in New Mexico linked to oil and gas exploration have increased by about 4,000 percent in recent years. It says in the first 13 years of this century, 16 earthquakes were measured at magnitude 3.8 in New Mexico, compared to only one quake of that size in the preceding 32 years.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - NM