AP

Court: US needs to consider effects of drilling near Chaco

Feb 2, 2023, 2:44 PM | Updated: 3:24 pm

FILE - A hiker sits on a ledge above Pueblo Bonito, the largest archeological site at the Chaco Cul...

FILE - A hiker sits on a ledge above Pueblo Bonito, the largest archeological site at the Chaco Culture National Historical Park, in northwestern New Mexico, on Aug. 28, 2021. A federal appeals court has sided with environmentalists Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023, ruling that the U.S. government failed to consider the cumulative effects of greenhouse gas emissions that would result from the approval of nearly 200 drilling permits in an area surrounding Chaco Culture National Historical Park. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio, File)

(AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio, File)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A federal appeals court has sided with environmentalists, ruling that the U.S. government failed to consider the cumulative effects of greenhouse gas emissions that would result from the approval of nearly 200 drilling permits in an area surrounding Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

Home to numerous sites significant to Native American tribes, the region has been a focal point of conflict over energy development that has spanned multiple presidential administrations. Now, environmentalists and some tribal leaders have accused the Biden administration of “rubber-stamping” more drilling.

In a ruling issued Wednesday, a three-judge panel for the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that federal land managers violated the law by not accounting for the direct, indirect and cumulative effects of air pollution from oil and gas drilling.

The court also put on hold the approval of additional drilling permits pending a decision from a lower court.

Kyle Tisdel, a senior attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center, accused the Bureau of Land Management of prioritizing oil and gas extraction at the expense of those who live in northwestern New Mexico, including many Navajo communities.

“Frontline Diné communities and their allies were vindicated today in a step toward environmental justice. We will continue to demand justice, and that their water, health and the climate stop being sacrificed to big oil profits,” Tisdel said in a statement.

Environmentalists have long complained about pollution from increased drilling, but the fight took on new urgency when Native American tribes began raising concerns that a spider web of drill pads, roads, processing stations and other infrastructure was compromising culturally significant sites beyond Chaco park’s boundaries.

The Bureau of Land Management had an informal process of not leasing land within 10 miles (16 kilometers) of Chaco park to address those concerns.

During the Obama administration, the Bureau of Indian Affairs for the first time joined federal land managers in planning how to manage resources. Following a visit by then-Interior Secretary David Bernhardt during the Trump administration, oil and gas leasing within a certain distance of the park was put on hold.

Now, the U.S. Interior Department is considering formalizing the 10-mile buffer around the park, putting off limits to future development of more than 507 square miles (1,310 square kilometers) of federal mineral holdings.

As part of the effort, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland — a member of Laguna Pueblo and the first Native American to lead a U.S. Cabinet agency — wants to create a system for including tribal perspectives and values when land management decisions are made.

She first detailed the steps her agency would be taking during a visit to Chaco park in November 2021. That process is ongoing.

Much of the land surrounding the park belongs to the Navajo Nation or is owned by individual Navajos. While the federal government’s planned 20-year withdrawal would not affect tribal lands, the Navajo Nation and allottees have expressed concerns about being landlocked and losing out on leasing revenue and royalties.

There are about 23,000 active oil and gas wells in the San Juan Basin in northwestern New Mexico. The BLM is required to approve an application for permit to drill before a developer can begin work. As part of that process, the agency typically prepares a site-specific environmental assessment to determine whether the project will have significant environmental effects.

The judges noted their review was limited to only those applications for permits to drill that had already been approved by the Bureau of Land Management, not pending applications.

While the Bureau of Land Management’s analysis of potential impacts to water resources was sufficient, the court noted that the agency was unreasonable in using one year of direct emissions to represent total emissions over the 20-year lifespan of a well.

It will be up to a lower court to decide how the agency can fix deficiencies in the environmental assessments that sparked the legal challenge.

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

AP

Global technology outage causes chaos on Friday morning...

Associated Press

Faulty software update causes havoc worldwide for airlines, hospitals and governments

A global technology outage grounded flights, knocked banks and hospital systems offline and media outlets off air on Friday morning.

1 day ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump arrives during the second day of th...

Associated Press

Donald Trump celebrated by former rivals at Republican National Convention

Former president Donald Trump was celebrated at the Republican National Convention by former rivals, including Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis.

3 days ago

FILE - Members of the Henderson Fire Department load Deb Billet, 66, into an ambulance before trans...

Associated Press

Things to know about heat deaths as a dangerously hot summer shapes up in the western US

A dangerously hot summer is shaping up in the U.S. West, with heat suspected in dozens of recent deaths.

7 days ago

FILE - Dr. Ruth Westheimer participates in the "Ask Dr. Ruth" panel during the Hulu presentation at...

Associated Press

Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the sex therapist who became a pop icon, has died

Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the sex therapist who became a pop icon, media star and best-selling author, has died.

7 days ago

Biden proposes rule to protect 36 million workers from extreme heat...

Associated Press

Biden proposes new rule to protect 36 million workers from extreme heat

President Joe Biden on Tuesday proposed a new rule to address excessive heat in the workplace, warning — as tens of millions of people in the U.S. are under heat advisories — that high temperatures are the country's leading weather-related killer.

18 days ago

FILE - Rori Chang, of Glendale, Ariz., walks with her dog Ava as they leave the Maricopa Country An...

Associated Press

Here are ways that can help ease dogs’ July Fourth dread

Those with furry, four-legged family members will be searching for solutions to the Fourth of July anxiety that fireworks bring.

19 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinic visits boost student training & community health

Going to a Midwestern University Clinic can help make you feel good in more ways than one.

...

DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

Court: US needs to consider effects of drilling near Chaco