We are often asked if it's too late to comment or if the leases can be "bought back". Below is some general information about the process and where we go from here.
The lands auctioned off in the Greater Chaco region are national, public lands. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is the agency that manages public resources and lands for multiple uses, including fossil fuel extraction. They hold lease sales 4-times a year. To ensure that the land is used specifically for development, bidders who want to keep the land in its natural state are not allowed to bid at these lease auctions.
For any type of development that might have adverse effects on the environment, land, air, and communities, the BLM must comply with NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) and have a management plan that includes best practices and mitigation planning. The plan must also include an Environmental Impact Statement. The current plan never analyzed horizontal fracking. It lacks best practices and mitigation planning for fracking impacts.
The current 2003 Resource Management Plan (RMP) does not analyze the impacts of industrialized fracking on the environment or people. It also lacks adequate tribal consultation. However, the BLM have admitted this much. This is why they are updating the plan by doing an amendment.
In the first effort of its kind, BLM and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) held 10 public meetings from October 2016 to February 2017, receiving more than 15,000 comments directing the scope of the new plan. Among other things, the agency’s “scoping report” promised the new plan would address climate change, water and soil resources, environmental justice, the “Chaco Cultural Landscape”, public health and safety, Tribal interest and trust responsibilities, truck traffic and road conditions, wildlife, and other issues impacted by industrialized fracking.
With the release of their draft plan, it’s clear the agencies have broken their promises. This is why it is important for you to submit comments to the BLM and demand they stop leasing lands and approving permits. Or at least, place a moratorium on new leasing and approving permits until they have a completed plan, which they are aiming to do by the end of this year.
Rather than slowing down, or placing a temporary halt on new development, the BLM is conducting individual Environmental Assessments (EAs) and tiering the EAs to the 2003 RMP. The EAs lack sufficient tribal consultation and exclude a thorough analysis of sacred sites and horizontal fracking impacts. The EAs consistently cite that fracking has no significant impacts to the environment or surrounding communities. This is the devious practice employed by the BLM that enables them to lease land and approve permits under the 2003 RMP.
However, before newly leased lands can be developed, the BLM must address protest comments filed against each lease sale. Until they are all resolved, fracking cannot take place on these parcels. It’s taken nearly a year for the BLM to resolve protests, so submitting as many protests as possible helps to slow development.