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By Roz Brown

June 8, 2023   

The Bureau of Land Management has auctioned off another 10,000 acres of New Mexico public lands to the oil and gas industry, despite a local rally and national letter writing campaign requesting its cancellation.

The letter, signed by 272 local and national groups, unions, businesses and institutions, failed to stop the May 25 sale and the BLM did not respond.

Miya King-Flaherty, Our Wild New Mexico organizing representative for the Rio Grande chapter of the Sierra Club, said four Western states have the highest concentration of federal oil and gas leases.

“New Mexico is ground zero,” King-Flaherty asserted. “We are essentially — I use the word ‘sacrifice zone’ — but lands in New Mexico are continually being held up for lease.”

King-Flaherty pointed out the BLM has another sale of leases planned for November. At the same time, the Biden administration took action last week to protect the cultural and historic resources surrounding the state’s Chaco Culture National Historical Park from new oil and gas leasing and mining claims.

New Mexico is the number two oil producing state in the nation, mostly in the San Juan and Permian Basins. Last month, the American Lung Association said ozone pollution, or smog, is getting worse in the Permian, with Eddy County having some of the worst air quality in the country.

King-Flaherty argued the dominance of fossil fuels is exacerbating the warming climate, which can be traced to the state’s largest wildfire ever recorded in 2022.

“If this leasing continues, we are only going to see climate disasters worsening,” King-Flaherty contended. “And public health impacts worsening for vulnerable populations, and Black and brown and Indigenous populations that continue to be on the front lines.”

King-Flaherty added the letter sent to the BLM pointed to recent findings by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, showing time is running out to avert catastrophe.

“Our window continues to narrow, and yet our government is doing the absolute opposite of what we need to do to ensure a habitable climate for all of us,” King-Flaherty concluded.