VICTORY! Protecting Chaco Canyon and the San Juan Basin From Fracking
With two mine-to-mouth coal-fired power plants and some 23,000 existing gas wells, New Mexico’s San Juan Basin is one of the areas in the U.S. most exploited for fossil fuel resources. Despite over a century of development, the type of unconventional drilling and modern fracking techniques needed to tap the area’s oil resources is relatively new. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) admits that shale oil development using these technologies has never been analyzed. As a result, the agency is amending its resource management plan (RMP). Nevertheless, BLM has approved more than 130 new drilling permits in the last year alone.
The greatest concentration of these is just outside Chaco Canyon, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a sacred ancestral place for the Hopi and Pueblo people. This development threatens the area’s rich cultural resources, treasured landscapes and native communities while ignoring federal law. WELC and our partners are taking the agency to court to protect human health, as well as resources like air quality, climate and water.
In May 2019, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals granted us a victory, concluding the BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to properly account for the impacts of horizontal drilling and fracking in the region. The court vacated the 362 permits, and ordered the BLM go back to the drawing board to fix its legal mistakes.
- Tenth Circuit Order Granting VICTORY (8.7.19)
- Appeal to Tenth Circuit (6.15.18)
- Order Denying NHPA Victory (4.23.18)
- Order “Previewing” NHPA Victory (3.31.18)
- Tenth Circuit Appeal Opinion (10.27.16)
- Tenth Circuit Reply Brief (12.18.15)
- Preliminary Injunction Reply Brief (8.25.15)
- Order Denying Preliminary Injunction (8.15.15)
- Letter to NM Delegation and Interior Secretary Jewell on Site Visit (6.22.15)
- Amended Chaco Complaint (5.21.15)
- Chaco Preliminary Injunction (5.11.15)
News & Updates
Underscoring the need for urgent landscape protection, on Saturday April 27, members of the State Land Office Chaco Working Group including representatives of the Tri-Chapters of the Navajo Nation and All Pueblo Council of Governors gathered at Counselor Chapter House...read more
Members of the Greater Chaco Coalition are applauding New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, and New Mexico Congressman Ben Ray Lujan and Congresswoman Deb Haaland for re-introducing the Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act of 2019 in the U.S....read more
Statement from Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment, the Western Environmental Law Center, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter, WildEarth Guardians, and Natural Resources Defense Council: Taos, NM – New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and...read more