FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
New Mexico Wild tells BLM to postpone oil and gas lease sales
Letter to agency questions whether current drilling activities are legal during shutdown
ALBUQUERQUE, NM (January 16, 2018) – New Mexico Wild is calling on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to postpone oil and gas lease sales and the issuance of drilling permits during the federal government shutdown until appropriate environmental reviews and public comment periods resume.
In a letter to BLM State Director Tim Spisak – which was co-signed by five other organizations – New Mexico Wild says that BLM lacks the funding and staff necessary to comply with legal requirements under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to conduct mandatory environmental reviews and 30-day public comment and protest periods before approving oil and gas lease sales on public lands.
“The government may be shut down but BLM has left our public lands wide open for drilling,” said Judy Calman, Staff Attorney at New Mexico Wild. “BLM has an obligation to comply with all federally-required environmental reviews and to manage public lands sustainably. Instead, it has chosen to allow oil and gas companies to bypass regulations and accountability as it approves these sales behind closed doors.”
“Talk about adding insult to injury. Energy dominance has already curtailed public participation and public accountability in the leasing process, threatening our national parks and public lands,” said Ernie Atencio, New Mexico Senior Program Manager at the National Parks Conservation Association. “Now BLM is drawing the curtain even tighter under the pretext of a shutdown while leasing and development of our public lands continue without missing a beat.”
In the letter, New Mexico Wild raises numerous concerns about BLM’s practice of allowing oil and gas lease sales to resume during the shutdown. Some reports have implied that oil and gas companies may be paying for permit processing fees during the shutdown, which could potentially lead to conflicts of interest for BLM. Additionally, the high number of furloughed employees at BLM makes it impossible for the agency to properly consider concerns raised by the public before issuing permits and leases. The letter also raises the possibility that BLM’s current approach may jeopardize the agency’s compliance with the Antideficiency Act, which prohibits federal agencies from expending funds that exceed appropriations.
New Mexico Wild concludes the letter by requesting a phone call or in-person meeting with Director Spisak and other BLM and/or Department of Interior staff.
Other organizations co-signing the letter include the National Parks Conservation Association, New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light, the Southwest Environmental Center, Western Environmental Law Center, and The Wilderness Society.
ABOUT THE NEW MEXICO WILDERNESS ALLIANCE: The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance or “New Mexico Wild” is a non-profit 501 (C)(3), independent, homegrown, grassroots, conservation organization dedicated to the protection, restoration and continued respect of New Mexico’s wildlands and Wilderness areas. With staff and thousands of supporters throughout the state, New Mexico Wild is dedicated to the rights and the value of citizen involvement in protecting increasingly rare wild places within public lands. Just as freedom is every American’s birthright so too is Wilderness.