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Mueller to testify in open session; migrant children returned to troubled detention center; plus ending the school-to-prison pipeline, and seeking justice for Native Americans killed at Wounded Knee.

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Groups Challenge BLM Oil, Gas Leases Near Carlsbad

More methane is wasted from oil and gas production on federal and tribal lands in New Mexico than any other state. (
More methane is wasted from oil and gas production on federal and tribal lands in New Mexico than any other state. (
November 1, 2018

CARLSBAD, N.M. – Two conservation advocacy groups are challenging the Bureau of Land Management's plan to sell off 54 parcels of public land near Carlsbad and Roswell for oil and gas development without a thorough Resource Management Plan.

On its website, the BLM touts such plans as blueprints to keep public landscapes healthy.

But now, the federal agency wants to allow 6,000 new wells over the next two decades without controls that limit methane waste.

Bill Midcap, senior policy advisor with the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, says the BLM appears to have revived the old drill, baby, drill slogan.

"Some of the BLM leases are approaching a wellhead every 40 acres,” he points out. “They're talking about doubling down on that so there would be a wellhead every 20 acres. It just seems to me they're creating too much scar on the land that all Americans should enjoy."

The Environmental Defense Fund and The Wilderness Society filed a joint protest over the proposal on Wednesday.

Last month the BLM held a 10-day comment period on an oil and gas drilling proposal for the Greater Chaco Area, also without a thorough Resource Management Plan in place.

Because rules that govern methane waste have been rolled back by the Trump administration, Midcap says greater drilling will not only damage the state's environment, but also lead to the waste of more than $16 million worth of natural gas each year.

Midcap says all that money could go toward improving New Mexico's educational quality, which he hopes would reduce the state's high crime rate.

"The biggest thing that Rocky Mountain Farmers Union is interested in is education,” he stresses. “You know, if we could raise the education levels in this state, and spend a little more money, maybe our crime would go down."

Bureau of Land Management analysis estimates that 6,000 new wells in the Carlsbad region would add 81,000 tons of pollution to the atmosphere every year.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM