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Monday, July 15, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Fracking Could Topple Anasazi Ruins

ALBUQUERQUE (CN) - The U.S. Bureau of Land Management's approval of 130 fracking permits in the New Mexico's Four Corners region threatens an environment that includes extensive prehistoric Native American relics, Navajo environmentalists claim in court.

Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment and three other groups asked a federal judge to vacate the permits and enjoin fracking in the Mancos Shale unless the BLM complies with the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act.

Diné is the Navajo name for themselves, in their Athapaskan language.

The San Juan Basin is a 4,600-square-mile area in the Four Corners region, which hosts a trove of breathtaking archaeological sites, attributed to the Anasazi and other pre-Columbian people.

The Mancos Shale and Gallup formations are a potential source of crude oil and natural gas, but the Diné say that horizontal drilling and fracking could destabilize historical sites in the area, and contaminate groundwater.

There already are a small number of fracking sites in the formations, but BLM studies and analyses about their environmental impact have not been made available to the public. Without that information, the Diné say, the public cannot make an informed decision about whether the drilling is hurting the Basin or if historical sites will be put at risk by the drilling.

Joining as plaintiffs are the San Juan Citizens Alliance, Wildearth Guardians and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The groups seek declaratory judgment, an injunction and attorney's fees.

They are represented by Kyle J. Tisdale with the Western Environment Law Center in Taos.

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