US outlines effects of withdrawing land from oil drilling

Nov 11, 2022, 4:23 PM | Updated: Nov 13, 2022, 3:54 pm
FILE - United States Interior Secretary Deb Haaland addresses a crowd during a celebration at Chaco...

FILE - United States Interior Secretary Deb Haaland addresses a crowd during a celebration at Chaco Culture National Historical Park in northwestern New Mexico, Nov. 22, 2021. The U.S. Interior Department's plan to withdraw hundreds of square miles in New Mexico from oil and gas production for the next 20 years is expected to result in only a few dozen wells not being drilled on federal land surrounding Chaco Culture National Historical Park, according to an environmental assessment. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan, File)

(AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan, File)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The U.S. Interior Department’s plan to withdraw hundreds of square miles in New Mexico from oil and gas production for the next 20 years is expected to result in only a few dozen wells not being drilled on federal land surrounding Chaco Culture National Historical Park, according to an environmental assessment.

Land managers have scheduled two public meetings next week to take comments on the assessment made public Thursday.

The withdrawal plan was first outlined by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in 2021 in response to the concerns of Native American tribes in New Mexico and Arizona that development was going unchecked across a wide swath of northwestern New Mexico and that tribal officials did not have a seat at the table.

In addition to the proposed withdrawal, Haaland — who is from Laguna Pueblo and is the first Native American to lead a Cabinet agency — also committed to taking a broader look at how federal land across the region can be better managed while taking into account environmental effects and cultural preservation.

Indigenous leaders and environmental groups reiterated this week that the broader look would be a more meaningful step toward permanent protections for cultural resources in the San Juan Basin.

The environmental assessment bolsters that argument since it notes that the proposed withdrawal would not affect existing leases and that much of the interest by the industry for future development already is under lease or falls outside the boundary of what would be withdrawn.

The Bureau of Land Management has estimated, based on 2018 data, that not quite 100 new oil and gas wells likely would be drilled over the next 20 years within the withdrawal area. It’s estimated that less than half of those likely would not be drilled if the withdrawal were approved.

With only a few dozen wells expected in the area, natural gas production for the area would decrease by half of 1% and oil production could see a 2.5% reduction.

However, the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association argued that even though the withdrawal would not affect leases on Navajo land or allotments owned by individual Navajos, those leases essentially become landlocked by taking federal mineral holdings off the board.

Navajo Nation officials have made similar arguments, saying millions of dollars in annual oil and gas revenues benefit the tribe and individual tribal members Some leaders have advocated for a smaller buffer around Chaco park to be protected due to the economic implications.

The industry group said there are more than 418 unleased allotments in the buffer zone associated with over 22,000 allottees.

Environmentalists say the potential development for the withdrawal area represents just a fraction of the 3,200 wells overall that the region could see over the next two decades.

Mike Eisenfeld of the San Juan Citizens Alliance has been monitoring and protesting development throughout the region for years. He said Friday that the larger issue is the expansive area beyond the withdrawal zone and that federal land managers need to evaluate requests for permitting within Haaland’s bigger “Honoring Chaco” initiative.

“We think that requires extensive consultation on protecting this region from industrialization of the landscape,” he said.

In June, the All Pueblo Council of Governors traveled from New Mexico to Washington to urge the Interior Department to finalize its proposal to protect the Chaco area, arguing that public land management should better reflect the value of sacred sites, cultural resources and traditional stories that are tied to the region.

A World Heritage site, Chaco Culture National Historical Park is thought to be the center of what was once a hub of Indigenous civilization with many tribes from the Southwest tracing their roots to the high desert outpost.

Within the park, walls of stacked stone rise up from the canyon bottom, some perfectly aligned with the seasonal movements of the sun and moon. Archaeologists also have found evidence of great roads that stretched across what is now New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Jessica Day-Weaver holds a ceramic hand print of her daughter, Anastasia, at her home, Thursday, Fe...
Associated Press

‘Died suddenly’ posts twist tragedies to push vaccine lies

Results from 6-year-old Anastasia Weaver’s autopsy may take weeks. But online anti-vaccine activists needed only hours after her funeral this week to baselessly blame the COVID-19 vaccine. A prolific Twitter account posted Anastasia’s name and smiling dance portrait in a tweet with a syringe emoji. A Facebook user messaged her mother, Jessica Day-Weaver, to call […]
8 hours ago
FILE - This Dec. 21, 2022, image provided by Eisai in January 2023 shows vials and packaging for th...
Associated Press

Why a new Alzheimer’s drug is having a slow US debut

The first drug to show that it slows Alzheimer’s is on sale, but treatment for most patients is still several months away. Two big factors behind the slow debut, experts say, are scant insurance coverage and a long setup time needed by many health systems. Patients who surmount those challenges will step to the head […]
8 hours ago
FILE - President Joe Biden speaks on the January jobs report in the Eisenhower Executive Office Bui...
Associated Press

State of the Union: Biden sees economic glow, GOP sees gloom

WASHINGTON (AP) — Going into Tuesday’s State of the Union address, President Joe Biden sees a nation with its future aglow. Republicans take a far bleaker view — that the country is beset by crushing debt and that Biden is largely responsible for inflation. And the GOP now holds a House majority intent on blocking […]
8 hours ago
Sri Lankan government soldiers march carrying national flags during the 75th Independence Day cerem...
Associated Press

Sri Lanka marks independence anniversary amid economic woes

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka marked its 75th independence anniversary on Saturday as a bankrupt nation, with many citizens angry, anxious and in no mood to celebrate. President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who has started to improve some but not all of the acute shortages, acknowledged the somber state of the nation, saying in a […]
1 day ago
FILE - President Joe Biden delivers his first State of the Union address to a joint session of Cong...
Associated Press

Biden makes progress on ‘unity agenda’ outlined in 2022

WASHINGTON (AP) — A year ago, President Joe Biden used his first State of the Union address to push top Democratic priorities that were sure to face a battle in the narrowly divided Congress but he also laid out a four-pronged “unity agenda” that would be an easier sell. Biden’s unity goals would be hard […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

New California oil well ban put on hold for voters to decide

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California’s new law banning new oil and gas wells near homes, schools and other community sites has been put on hold until after voters decide next year whether to throw it out, officials announced Friday. Opponents of Senate Bill 1137 gathered more than 623,000 valid voter signatures to put a referendum […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
...
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
US outlines effects of withdrawing land from oil drilling