Timeline: Coalition Engagement to Protect Greater Chaco and Communities from Fracking
Greater Chaco Landscape
- Time immemorial: Indigenous Peoples live in the Greater Chaco Landscape and hold cultural affiliations to the region, including Diné, Apache, Hopi, Ute, and Pueblo Peoples.
- 1500s - Present: Extractive Colonialism and Indigenous Resistance See this Timeline — puebloactionalliance.org
- 1920s to Present: Fossil Fuel Colonialism The federal government literally treats the Greater Chaco Landscape like a “national energy sacrifice zone”.
- Oil and Gas: 1920s to present, including fracking circa 2013.
- Uranium: Mining from 1944-1986. Contamination and health effects continue to this day.
- Coal: 1960s to present.
Coalition Engagement to Protect
Greater Chaco and Communities from Fracking
1986: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Rio Puerco Field Office finalizes its Resource Management Plan (RMP). It does not account for any oil and gas activity. The most recent revision is from 1992.
2003: The BLM Farmington Field Office finalizes its 2003 RMP for northwestern New Mexico. It foresees the development of nearly 10,000 new oil and gas wells and explicitly states that industrialized fracking is not a viable option.
2010: The first horizontally fracked well is drilled in the Greater Chaco region to target the Mancos-Gallup shale–an underground geological formation under Chaco Culture National Historical Park.
2010: San Juan Citizens Alliance, Diné CARE, Oil and Gas Accountability Project, Natural Resources Defense Council, Treciafaye Blancett, and Counselor Chapter of the Navajo Nation enter into a settlement agreement with the BLM securing improvements on how oil and gas development is managed by the Farmington Field Office.
2013: Saddle Butte San Juan, LLC proposes a 140-mile long pipeline that would carry 50,000 barrels of oil per day through the Greater Chaco region.
2014: Community members gather in Counselor Chapter expressing concerns about the impacts of fracking in the region. Taking direction from community matriarchs, residents decide to reach out to allies for support.
2014: The Greater Chaco Coalition forms in response to increased oil and gas activity and a Master Leasing Plan proposal that protects a 10-mile buffer around Chaco Culture National Historical Park from future mineral leasing, but allows for continued development across the landscape. The MLP designates the Tri-Chapter area (Navajo Nation communities of Counselor, Ojo Encino, and Torreon) a “Designated Development Zone.”
2014: The BLM publishes a notice of intent that states the agency failed to fully analyze or address the impacts of industrialized fracking and that it will prepare an amendment to the 2003 RMP (as opposed to new plan) to analyze new oil and gas activities in the area. This begins the Resource Management Plan Amendment (RMPA) process.
2015: Long-time advocate and former Navajo Nation Council Delegate Daniel Tso begins leading “Fracking is Fracking Reality Tours” through the backroads of Diné communities impacted by industrialized fracking.
2015: WildEarth Guardians and Western Environmental Law Center file suit in New Mexico Federal District court against the BLM on behalf of Diné Citizens Against Ruining our Environment, San Juan Citizens Alliance, and Natural Resources Defense Council. The claim argues the BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). Chaco 1.0 Litigation is filed.
2015 - Present: The Greater Chaco Coalition protests quarterly federal oil and gas lease sales in New Mexico, including in the Greater Chaco Landscape and the Permian Basin. See Frack Off Chaco blog for lease sale actions: https://www.frackoffchaco.org/_blog#_blog
- 2M+ comments delivered
- 2016 April Lease Sale Protest
- Prayer Runs in 2017, 2019 and 2022
- Hundreds of fracking tours, many with optical gas imaging
- Complaints filed
- Protest signs erected in 2018 along HWY 550
- Washington D.C. advocacy
- And much more…
2016 Fracking Explosion: A massive fire at a fracking site operated by WPX starts in the night and is left to burn for days in Nageezi Chapter. 55 residents were evacuated and some residents lost livestock. The fire spread to 36 storage oil tanks.
2016: Impacted community members in the Chapters of Counselor, Ojo Encino, and Torreon form a Health Impact Assessment Committee to monitor the health, cultural, and spiritual impacts of fracking on the community.
2016: An amended notice of intent is published that includes the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) as a co-leading agency along with the BLM in the RMPA process, the first collaboration of its kind between the agencies. During the RMPA public scoping process, the Greater Chaco Coalition organized impacted community members to give 1,000+ in person comments.
2017: The BLM proposes leasing 2,122 acres in Greater Chaco at its January 25, 2017 oil and gas lease sale. Responding to protests, the BLM admits its process lacked sufficient tribal consultation. BLM reduces lease sale acreage and applies unprecedented conditions of approval to address impacts from increased traffic, noise, and light pollution, implementing recommendations from the Health Impact Assessment Committee.
2017: The New Mexico House of Representatives passes House Memorial 70 sponsored by Representative Derrick Lente that reaffirms the state’s commitment to protecting and preserving tribal, cultural, and historical sites and resources in the Greater Chaco landscape.
2018: The Greater Chaco Coalition responds to the introduction of the Chaco Cultural Heritage Protection Act, declaring “Greater Chaco protections mean more than lines on a map” and must include meaningful safeguards for communities and the environment.
2018: Activists disrupt the Convention of Western Attorneys General Conference attended by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke at Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort at Santa Ana Pueblo demanding an end to sacrificing Indigenous and public lands to fossil fuel industries.
2018: San Juan Citizens Alliance v. Bureau of Land Management. A District Court in New Mexico rules the BLM violated NEPA because it failed to consider the cumulative impacts of federal oil and gas leasing in the Santa Fe National Forest.
2018: Over 200 advocates rally at the BLM New Mexico State Office protesting the oil and gas lease sale of 89,000 acres of public lands. This includes 44,000 acres in the Greater Chaco region and 40,000 near Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke defers the parcels in the Greater Chaco region citing the need to further analyze over 5,000 cultural sites in the leasing area. The Coalition celebrates the deferral insisting the fight is not over.
2019: The New Mexico State Land Office issues Executive Order 2019-002 Moratorium on New Oil and Gas and Mineral Leasing within a 10-mile area around Chaco Culture National Historical Park and convenes a Chaco Working Group to make recommendations regarding land management practices in the Greater Chaco region.
2019: Diné CARE v. Bernhardt. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that BLM violated NEPA because it failed to analyze the cumulative impacts to water resources associated with drilling 3,960 reasonably foreseeable horizontal Mancos Shale wells.
2019: The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources visits the Greater Chaco region. The Subcommittee participates in a Fracking is Fracking Reality Tour, visits Chaco Culture National Historical Park to meet with Indigenous leaders, and holds a field hearing in Santa Fe on Greater Chaco and air quality protections.
2020: BLM and BIA release the Draft RMPA and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) weeks before the State of New Mexico, the Navajo Nation, and Pueblo Nations implement emergency public health guidelines and lockdowns responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Draft proposes to authorize over 3,000 new oil and gas wells in the Greater Chaco landscape.
2020: U.S. Congress allocates $1.6 million towards a Tribal-led ethnographic study of cultural resources in the Greater Chaco region.
2021: The Counselor Health Impact Assessment - K’é Bee Hózhǫǫgo Iiná Silá Committee (HIA/KBHIS) study approved by the Navajo Nation Human Research Review Board is completed. The study culminated from the health and cultural impact assessment that began in 2016.
2021: At the Biden-Harris administration’s first White House Tribal Nations Summit, President Joe Biden and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announce steps to protect the Chaco Canyon and the greater connected landscape by initiating the process for a 20-year moratorium on new oil and gas development on unleashed federal within a 10-miles of Chaco Culture National Historical Park. The Secretary also announces the “Honoring Chaco Initiative”.
2022: The BLM and BIA announce hosting a series of public Q&A sessions and 90-day comment period on the proposed mineral withdrawal. Following widespread criticism of the public engagement process and a request from leadership at the All Pueblo Council of Governors to hold a public meeting in the Rio Grande Valley/Albuquerque, the BLM and BIA held additional public meetings, changed the format to allow for public comment, and extended the comment deadline by 30 additional days. Members of the Greater Chaco Coalition delivered nearly 80,000 comments in-person to the BLM New Mexico State Office calling for broader land-scape level protections beyond a 10-mile buffer and for the agencies to ‘Truly Honor Chaco’ in the process.
2023: Diné CARE, et al. v. Bureau of Land Mgmt., et al. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th circuit rejects nearly 200 Trump-era approved drilling permits defended by the Biden administration in favor of conservation groups. The ruling finds the agency violated NEPA by failing to account for the health impacts of toxic air pollution from oil and gas activities and carbon pollution impacts to the climate. This is the first time the 10th Circuit has ruled in favor of citizen groups on these issues. The 10th Circuit orders a halt to new drilling permits.
2023: The Greater Chaco Coalition issues a response to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s final decision to prohibit new federal oil and gas leasing for a 20-year period within 10 miles of the Chaco Culture National Historical Park, as well as this response to a bill and House Natural Resources subcommittee hearing that threatens to nullify the administrative withdrawal. Work continues to advance the Honoring Chaco Initiative and protect the Greater Chaco landscape and impacted communities.