DENVER – Western Energy Alliance submitted comments to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) regarding a proposed ten-mile zone around the Chaco Culture National Historical Park that would prevent oil and natural gas leasing in the area for the next 20 years. The Alliance’s comments on BLM’s Environmental Assessment (EA) stressed the severe economic impact to members of the Navajo Nation who own energy resources and urged the agency to accept the Tribe’s compromise of a five-mile buffer zone.
According to an analysis by Enduring Resources (contained in the docket), the withdrawal would prevent 233 horizontal wells and the production of 86 million barrels of oil and 25.8 billion cubic feet of natural gas, costing the federal government $51 million annually in lost royalties, or $1 billion over 20 years. Navajo mineral owners would lose an estimated $194.3 million over that 20-year period.
“As our economy slides into recession, the people impacted the most are in low-income, marginalized communities like those around Chaco. Despite the injustice of preventing 5,500 Navajos from fully developing their energy resources, the Interior Secretary is moving full steam ahead. The Interior Secretary should not casually dismiss the impacts on Navajo mineral owners and their livelihoods,” said Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Alliance.
“The Interior Secretary has chosen to ignore a compromise five-mile buffer democratically adopted by the Navajo Nation. And although buffer restrictions supposedly would only apply to federal lands, the interlocking nature of land and minerals ownership means Navajo allottees would not be able to fully develop their energy. With horizontal drilling, it is impossible to avoid surrounding federal lands when attempting to access pockets of allottee oil and natural gas. Depriving Navajo families of a major source of income is an economic and environmental injustice,” added Sgamma.
For more information, please see the Alliance’s letter to BLM.
A compromise is also supported by members of the surrounding community. In April 2022, the commissioners in San Juan County, New Mexico, passed a resolution opposing Interior’s ten-mile buffer and instead supported the compromise five-mile buffer supported by the Navajo Nation.
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