Suit threatened over possible lease sale of 20,000 acres in Santa Fe National Forest

The Wisconsin Gazette

A broad coalition of local and national conservation groups announced plans to sue the federal Bureau of Land Management if the agency proceeds with the sale of 13 parcels — almost 20,000 acres of public lands — in the Santa Fe National Forest for oil and gas fracking.

The BLM has received more than a 100 letters protesting the sale and challenging the agency’s failure to consider potentially serious impacts to the area’s air, water, wildlife and surrounding communities.

Coalition leaders say the leases would allow horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing — “fracking” — of the Santa Fe National Forest, a prospect that BLM has never studied. In fact, the agency has admitted that its current resource management plan governing drilling activities, finalized in 2003, is outdated and no longer able serve this essential function.

“In a rush to satisfy the demands of the oil and gas industry, BLM is ignoring its fundamental legal obligations and circumventing the underlying oil and gas drilling planning process,” said Kyle Tisdel, attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center. “There is broad commitment from groups to go to court if necessary to ensure our treasured landscapes are not destroyed.”

“BLM has already leased 94 percent of our public lands around the Farmington, Nex Mexico, area for oil and gas drilling,” said Mike Eisenfeld, New Mexico energy coordinator for San Juan Citizens Alliance. “This new lease sale on the Santa Fe National Forest would continue this reckless, lease-everywhere mentality that destroys recreation, wildlife, and cultural resources and ignores BLM’s responsibilities to honestly analyze impacts.” 

“Oil and gas drilling these days is significantly different than that of only 11 years ago,” said Pete Dronkers of Earthworks. “The wells are bigger, go deeper and for miles in every direction. They release far more hazardous waste into the air and water. BLM has to study these newer impacts before it permits further drilling in the San Juan Basin.”

The lease sale is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Oct. 22 at the BLM New Mexico State Office in Santa Fe.

The coalition of conservation groups is represented by Western Environmental Law Center, and includes: Amigos Bravos, Chaco Alliance, Earthworks, Rio Arriba Concerned Citizens, San Juan Citizens Alliance, and WildEarth Guardians.