New Mexico Sues Feds to Save Grasslands

     SANTA FE, N.M. (CN) – Gov. Bill Richardson says the Bush-era Bureau of Land Management violated environmental law by approving oil and gas development on rare and sensitive grasslands in Southern New Mexico. New Mexico claims a January 2005 decision on Otero Mesa violates several federal laws, as well as state environmental and water regulations.

Richardson says that after natural gas was discovered on Otero Mesa in 1998, the BLM released development options in 2000 that advanced “significant protections” for the rare grasslands area, but that a 2003 proposal offered up a “completely different” plan, providing “only a tiny fraction” of the environmental protection.
Richardson calls Otero Mesa “one of the most biologically diverse and endangered arid ecosystems on earth,” supporting rare and endangered species such as the Aplomado falcon and the black-tailed prairie dog.
The complaint states that after the 2003 decision that truckled to the oil industry, the state submitted a report to the BLM in 2004, its violations of state policies. The BLM decision violates New Mexico environmental protection policies, water quality regulations, regulations governing cultural and archeological resources, and planning for alternative energy development.
The feds also blew off the New Mexico’s alternate development proposal, which was more environmentally protective. Richardson says he was forced to sue after the BLM rejected his state agencies’ administrative appeals.
New Mexico, represented by Attorney General Patricia Madrid and Alletta Belin of Belin and Sugarman, wants the BLM ordered to accept the state’s recommendations for oil and gas development on Otero Mesa and the nearby Nutt grasslands.

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