Protests over New Mexico public land lease sale, February 2020

After the BLM recently voluntarily suspended a number of previously approved leases pending further investigation following a court ruling against them in an other case… investors would be justified in being skittish about investing in projects situated on public land leases. The article below from the Carslbad Current Argus shows the upcoming lease sale, scheduled for February 2020 is already attracting attention from protestors.

Accredited Investors looking to find a project to invest in to offset 2019 taxes would do well to bear this in mind when reviewing current prospects in the Permian Basin. Investing in smaller independents with a history of locating and generating prospects which result in commercially sucessful productive wells in the same production areas as the public leases, (such as Lea County, NM) on offer make for a good long-term prospect. Independents such as Eno who are offering conventional plays on privately leased land, in proven successful production oil and gas formations such as the Permian Basin with it’s stacked pay zones and enclosed anticlinal structural traps offer a great opportunity for investors who may have been previously been disappointed by returns on unconventional project investments.

Protests mount against Bureau of Land Management’s latest sale of public land to oil and gas

Tribal and environmentalist groups in New Mexico protested the Bureau of Land Management’s upcoming auction of public land leases slated for February 2020, calling it the latest in a string of sales to the oil and gas industry that failed to account for the impact on the environment and sacred lands.

The groups, led by the Sierra Club and WildEarth Guardians, claimed to represent more than 5 million members in their opposition to the sale and called on the federal government to cancel plans to lease about 15,000 acres of tribal and federal public lands in New Mexico before a full analysis of potential public health and cultural harm.

Opposition also pointed to a June lease sale that offered almost 40,000 acres for oil and gas development after receiving “thousands” of protests from Native American tribes and other advocates.

The protests center around land in the Greater Chaco landscape in northwest New Mexico, along with the Greater Carlsbad landscape in the Permian Basin to the southeast – the state’s most active oilfield.

More than 94 percent of the available land in the Chaco areas were already sold to the industry, read a news release, along with 97 percent in the Carlsbad areas.

About 500 new oil and gas wells were drilled in the two areas, with 64,000 currently operating, the release read.

More: BLM: Thousands of acres of New Mexico public land offered up for oil and gas drilling

The groups pointed to the BLM’s efforts to shorten protest periods for the sales from 30 to 10 days, and questioned the agency’s alleged refusal to hold public hearings.

U.S. Highway 285 from the Village of Malaga to the New Mexico/Texas state line.

“In spite of the serious negative impacts that expanded fracking is already having on local communities, the Bureau of Land Management has chronically failed to take a hard look at the cumulative effects of oil and gas leasing and has even rolled back opportunities for the public to weigh in on this process,” read a statement from the groups.

Protesters demanded the BLM halt any new oil and gas leases on federal and tribal land before a “full analysis” on the impact of hydraulic fracturing was conducted.

More: New Mexico proposes strategies to reduce methane pollution from oil and gas

The February lease sale offered about 17,000 acres of land to oil and gas leases across New Mexico, Oklahoma and Kansas, with about 1,500 acres near Chaco Culture National Historical Park, and more than 13,000 acres near Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

In Eddy County, about 15,246 acres were offered, about 86 percent of the 17,667 total acres offered in the entire sale.

Lea County had 520 acres on three tracts offered in the sale, and Sandoval had eight parcels at 1,569 acres.

More: Permian Basin electrical grid continues to grow amid oil and gas boom

The groups asserted the BLM did not adequately address potential harm to the sensitive karstic land forms in the Carlsbad Caverns area, and the potential for ground water contamination, and impacts to local wildlife and cultural resources.

“By pushing forward with the February 2020 lease sale, the BLM is ignoring public input and failing in its obligation to the American people. BLM has a responsibility to manage public lands for the benefit of the public by allowing for economic, recreational, cultural preservation, and scientific uses,” said Miya King-Flaherty of the Sierra Club’s Rio Grande Chapter.

“By focusing only on selling off these lands to the fossil fuel industry, BLM is threatening to do permanent damage to irreplaceable cultural resources and the health and safety of surrounding communities.” 

More: Oil and gas leads New Mexico revenue growth, state report warns of market volatility

Kyle Tisdel, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) said the leases and subsequent oil and gas production could cause irreparable harm to the environment and local communities.

“The Bureau of Land Management continues to sacrifice our climate, public health, and sacred places for oil and gas industry profits,” he said. “WELC will always defend our communities and the environment against exploitation by fossil fuel interests.”

Taylor McKinnon at the Center for Biological Diversity said continued oil and gas development threatens to exacerbate continuing climate concerns.

“BLM should cancel this lease sale–it’s a regional travesty of broken national policy,” McKinnon said. “Far more fossil fuels are planned for development in the world than climate limits can handle—and each new lease makes that bad problem worse, threatening life here and everywhere.” 

New Mexico’s national parks could also be negatively impacted by ongoing oil and gas expansion in New Mexico, said Emily Wolf and the National Parks Conservation Association.

She said the public must be given a stronger voice for its opposition to the developments.

More: Study: New Mexico would lose billions if fracking banned, oil and gas leads economic growth

“The rampant leasing of public lands to private industry, combined with the administration’s systematic gutting of environmental protections and public participation, is causing irreparable damage to the cultural, geological and ecological values of New Mexico’s national parks,” Wolf said.

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