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BLM Barrels Ahead with NM Oil and Gas Leases

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The Bureau of Land Management is proceeding with plans to lease more New Mexico public lands to the oil and gas industry, despite the recent energy market collapse. (sej.org)
The Bureau of Land Management is proceeding with plans to lease more New Mexico public lands to the oil and gas industry, despite the recent energy market collapse. (sej.org)
March 30, 2020

SANTA FE, N.M. -- Despite a global pandemic, it's down to the wire for New Mexico residents who want to comment on the May sale of oil and gas leases by the Bureau of Land Management.

Wednesday is the end of a 10-day protest. The BLM typically requires that comments be delivered in person or by mail in the final protest period, but with the state stay-at-home order in effect, the agency is allowing email comments.

Miya King-Flaherty, organizing representative for the Our Wild New Mexico campaign of the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter, maintains the lease sales should be paused, or the comment period extended.

"Many people do not have Internet access or the technology and the accessibility needed to be able to email comments, and which is also the case for many rural residents who are on the front lines of oil and gas development," she states.

The proposed lease sale includes 94 parcels or 45,000 acres of public land in New Mexico's Permian Basin.

Oil prices have plummeted since mid-February, in part due to the coronavirus outbreak. That could reduce revenue for the U.S. Treasury when the New Mexico leases are auctioned.

Since President Donald Trump's election, the protest period allowing people to comment on oil and gas activities on public lands has been reduced from 30 days to just 10.

King-Flaherty says in a rural state like New Mexico, the new rule is especially problematic -- but the need to hear people's concerns is greater than ever.

"Because there are multiple uses -- including for recreation purposes, preservation of cultural and archeological sites, and the protection of resources like air and water quality -- that are all impacted by development, which is impacting our climate and our health," she stresses.

The BLM's decision to lease the land doesn't mean it will be developed, but commits the agency to honor the rights of the purchaser to explore and potentially produce oil and gas there.

Disclosure: Sierra Club, Rio Grande Chapter contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Energy Policy, Public Lands/Wilderness, Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM