Confusion arises over BLM defering Chaco leases

The Daily times staff
The Farmington Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management is pictured in February 2012. The federal agency is expected to release rules for wind and solar projects in the near future.

FARMINGTON – Confusion arose on Tuesday after a press release was issued by a coalition of environmental groups claiming that the Farmington Field Office for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management had deferred three leases for oil and gas production around Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

The release, issued by the Western Environmental Law Center, Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment and the San Juan Citizens Alliance, celebrated the deferral and called for greater scrutiny of the agency’s permitting of oil and gas operations around the park, citing environmental and cultural concerns and needed protections.

But BLM spokeswoman Donna Hummel said a decision to defer the leases on approximately 2,122 acres of federal mineral estate has not been made.

“I want to make it clear that the BLM has not yet made a decision on the Farmington Field Office parcels. I repeat, we do not have a decision,” Hummel said. “The way the process works is that it's almost a nine-month process from the time industry makes a nomination for a parcel up until and through the environmental analysis to the time that we hold a lease sale. Throughout that time, we're having conversations, and lots of work is being done. We have until May 5 to really make a decision if a parcel will go forward.”

Kyle Tisdel of WELC said that his group was led to believe that a decision to defer had been made.

“I think the decision (to defer the leases) has been made by the Field Office,” Tisdel said. “It may just be a case of the right hand not knowing what the left is doing.”

If a deferral is not made by the BLM by May 5, people can submit comments over the environmental assessments related to the lease parcels to the BLM New Mexico State Office after that point at NMleasesalecomments@blm.gov.