Saturday, July 18, 2015

Administration Authorizes Fracking in Chaco Canyon

great kiva at Chetro Ketl
It maybe creating new national monuments, but it is threatening existing historic ruins in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico by authorizing fracking operations near the national park. Fracking causes seismic activity that could severely damage ancient buildings and roads in the World Heritage site. The Canyon is considered sacred by local Native Americans. The BLM has approved more than 250 fracking proposals around the park, but conservation groups are opposing the agency's action in federal court by asking for a new environmental impact study. Methane emissions in the four corners region of New Mexico are already the highest in the country. Chaco Canyon sits atop the Marcellus shale formation in the San Juan basin, a major source of oil and natural gas.

On Monday, the court began hearing arguments about whether to enjoin new permiting until the case is resolved. Ecana Corp. of Canada and WPX Energy of Oklahoma have drilled about 150 wells since 2011. BP and Conoco-Phillips are also interested in the Marcellus so they have joined the suit. A company attorney told the court that over $1 million has been spent developing the field. Current drilling is based on a twelve year old "resource management plan" that was developed by BLM before fracking and horizontal drilling techniques were widely used. BLM intended to supplement the old plan to include the new technology, but conservationists say that is inadequate to protect local native communities, the environment, and historic buildings from the adverse impacts of fracking. Gov. Susana Martinez has asked the Department of Interior to support the BLM's handling of the issue in the federal lawsuit.