Tuesday, September 22, 2020

 Chaco-Area Sacred Sites Drilling Plan Expedited

A proposal that would increase oil and gas drilling in the Greater Chaco region of northwest New Mexico is one of a long list of energy projects that are being “expedited” by the U.S. Department of Interior during the COVID-19 pandemic, under the direction of the Trump Administration. The information was revealed in a letter dated July 15 from the DOI Deputy Secretary Katharine MacGregor and obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

The BLM ultimately granted a 120-day extension, which will run out September 25, but the agency has refused to halt the process until after the pandemic. Instead, it has held a series of webinars for public engagement, including several held at the end of August. 

The BLM Deputy Director William Perry Pendley argued in April that online information sessions would actually increase public participation. But for many of the communities directly impacted by the proposal, accessing broadband to participate in the webinars presents its own challenges. 

Sixty percent of Navajo Nation residents currently lack access to broadband, according to Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez.

Tribes, Congress, and the public have repeatedly demanded the Bureau of Land Management keep its promises to protect the culture, communities, and climate of the Greater Chaco Landscape.  The BLM is exploiting the COVID-19 crisis to drill more than 3,000 new fracking wells, and refuses to include Tribal-led efforts to protect sacred sites during the planning process.

be strong, be safe, Carlan