KOB4 NEWS 10-21-14 Future Oil and Gas Plans Scrutinized

Oct 21, 2014

Planning for future oil and gas operations being scrutinized in Chaco Canyon area

Updated: 10/21/2014 6:30 PM | Created: 10/21/2014 6:03 PM 
By: Devin Neeley, KOB Eyewitness News 4

CHACO CANYON, NM -- The line between preserving the past and planning for the future is always a fine one. In northern New Mexico, the discussion revolves around oil and gas operations, and a world heritage site.

A whole new perspective comes from the air, thanks to a flight provided to media from EcoFlight. The aerial tour over the oil and gas production fields and Chaco Canyon make the spider web of roads connecting well sites clear.

"[The] Farmington [Bureau of Land Management] is 90 percent leased," said Mike Eisenfeld, of the San Juan Citizens' Alliance.

That is to say, that 90 percent of lands available to be used for oil and gas drilling have been leased to an operator.

Eisenfeld says he is "also very concerned by impacts to Chaco and the area in general."

The remaining 10 percent of un-leased, public lands in the area are mostly in a ten-mile buffer zone surrounding Chaco Canyon, and advocates want to keep it that way.

"The concern that we have is that we are forging ahead without really taking a look at how it's going to impact some of the vital heritage areas, like Chaco, that play such an important role throughout the world," he said.

As the Bureau of Land Management looks at amending the resource management plan to deal with the remaining 10% of un-leased lands, people like Eisenberg and others ask that the new plan be balanced for both oil and gas operators and preservation of the Chacoan landscape.

"My preference would be that we proceed cautiously; that we don't figure things out later," said Eisenfeld.

"[We'd like] [t]o look at the whole landscape and look at where drilling might take place, and then put into effect some planning that would make fewer roads and fewer impacts on Chaco," said Barbera West, former superintendent of Chaco Canyon.