24,000 Acres of Public Lands in New Mexico Spared from Fracking for Now, 50,000 Acres Still Slated for Sacrifice
Denver— WildEarth Guardians applauded the New Mexico Bureau of Land Management’s move to defer 31 parcels from the September oil and gas lease sale while calling on the agency to apply the same caution to the remaining 142 parcels slated for auction. In its environmental analysis, the Bureau of Land Management cited concerns over geology, drinking water supplies, and the proximity to iconic places like Carlsbad Caverns National Park as reasons for its partial deferral.
“It’s great that the administration has been hearing some of our concerns about the threat fracking poses to National Parks and our precious air and water,” said Becca Fischer, Climate Guardians with WildEarth Guardians. “But, the fact that the Bureau of Land Management considers these impacts important only when they are adjacent National Parks is a condemnation of the rest of our public lands across the West and our climate.”
Although the partial deferral is welcome news, the decision ignores additional environmental impacts that would result from the sale. In April, WildEarth Guardians submitted extensive comments criticizing the Bureau of Land Management’s reliance on a 29-year old resource management plan that fails to analyze the impacts of fracking. Guardians also highlighted concerns about worsening air pollution in the area.
“The fact is: 142 parcels are still up on the auction block in September and those parcels will result in more air pollution and fracking in an area that is already feeling the strain from unchecked extraction,” said Fischer. “Adding hundreds of more wells is likely to cause violations of federal air quality standards, and the agency is turning a blind eye to these impacts.”
The sale comes as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced an MOU with the state of New Mexico to explore controversial fracking wastewater recycling, meant to address concerns over freshwater use and wastewater disposal especially in arid southwestern environments.
Unfortunately, the pace of federal public lands approved for oil and gas leasing by the BLM continues to drastically increase in 2018, on pace to triple the amount of acreage sold last year. In 2017, the BLM auctioned off more than one million acres of public lands for fracking in six Western states. To date, the BLM’s proposed lease sales for 2018 in those same states total almost 2.5 million acres.