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Protests accepted for lease sale of New Mexico public land to oil and gas industry

A pumpjack in front of an oil rig in the oil fields south of Artesia. (Greg Sorber/Journal)

Anyone opposed to the sale of federal land in southeast New Mexico to the oil and gas industry has about 10 days to make their voices heard regarding a lease sale scheduled for November.

The federal Bureau of Land Management began a protest period for a sale scheduled for Nov. 7 of 10-year leases on public land to companies to drill for the exploration or extraction of oil and gas.

Public comments can be made online at the BLM’s website.

The BLM proposed 16 parcels on 7,619 acres om Eddy, Lea and Sandoval counties in New Mexico and Dewey and Woodward counties in Oklahoma.

Protests of these parcels will be accepted from Sept. 9 to 20.

In Eddy County, BLM proposed five parcels for lease on 2,492 acres.

Five parcels in Lea County were also offered, for a total of 921 acres.

In Sandoval County, 2,837 acres were offered for a lease on four parcels of land.

New Mexico activists and Native American leaders recently called for a ban on oil and gas drilling while the federal government reviews the practice’s impact on the environment and its contributions to climate change.

A one-year moratorium was ultimately placed on the Greater Chaco region in northwestern New Mexico, which groups contended contained acres of sacred land.

Carol Davis, coordinator at Dine C.A.R.E, a Native American activist group, said the BLM’s Rio Puerco Office, which manages lands in Sandoval County in northern New Mexico should listen to public concerns and cease drilling permits in the region.

“BLM continues to fail the public by not upholding the duties they are charged with by allowing unchecked development despite public concerns routinely raised about adverse cumulative public health and environmental impacts,” she said. “We demand accountability from the Rio Puerco Field Office of the BLM.”

In the southeast and booming Permian Basin, environmentalists worried such activity on public land could be contributing to pollution.

A study from Oil Change International said the Permian Basin in southeast New Mexico and West Texas – containing Eddy and Lea counties – could be the source of nearly 40 percent of emissions of methane and other volatile organic compounds across the country by 2050.

“Continued oil and gas drilling throughout the Greater Chaco and Greater Carlsbad landscape has already caused irreparable harm to our environment, air and water quality, and public health,” said Miya King-Flahery, organizer at the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter. “New Mexico cannot escape from the climate crisis or its impacts unless we take action today.

“Until we reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and make the necessary changes now, we will experience harsher drought seasons and more extreme climate fluctuations. New Mexico and our future generations deserve better.”

Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.


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