Chaco Region Wins Reprieve From Fracking

Published: Monday, May 13, 2019 - 4:03pm
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Andrew Bernier/KJZZ
Pueblo del Arroyo at sunset.

A federal appeals court ruled the Interior Department illegally approved oil and gas drilling near Chaco Canyon. Tribal leaders opposed the drilling near ancient Native American cultural sites.

In 2015, four environmental groups sued the federal government to stop fracking on land considered sacred to several tribes throughout the southwest. They were also concerned about water and air quality.

The Bureau of Land Management estimated 4,000 fracking wells would be developed in the region. The court ruled the agency had to consider the cumulative impacts of those wells in the environmental assessments. In all, the court rejected 25 well permits, but the case could affect many more.

Last month, lawmakers introduced legislation that would protect lands surrounding Chaco Culture National Historical Park from oil and gas drilling.

Chaco Canyon in northwestern New Mexico is where the Ancestral Puebloans thrived over a thousand years ago. Many artifacts and archaeological sites remain.

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