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BLM considers sale of Chaves County oil and gas leases

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Officials with New Mexico offices of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management are considering whether and how to proceed with the sale of oil and gas leases in the region after receiving some initial comments, including at least one from a group expressing concerns.

The online sale is planned to involve 197 parcels under the jurisdiction of the Roswell and Carlsbad field offices and located in Chaves, Eddy and Lea counties. The sale has been scheduled for Sept. 6.

At this time, the leases up for consideration, nominated in conjunction with oil and gas industry members, include 18 parcels totaling about 8,812 acres in Chaves County.

BLM spokesperson Allison Sandoval said that the agency can make a decision at any time about whether to proceed with or cancel the sale, which would be the first to involve Chaves County parcels since September 2017.

That sale resulted in $130.89 million in revenues for the federal agency, including $405,119 received for the Chaves County parcels.

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A public comment period that ended April 20 resulted in two letters in opposition from the Wild Earth Guardians environmental advocacy group, said BLM spokesperson Lisa Morrison, as well as “form letters.”

A standard public protest period is also scheduled for July 23-Aug. 1.

Wild Earth, a nonprofit active in several states with a stated mission of protecting wildlife, water, public lands and public health, has protested lease sales in the area before, in 2016 and 2017.

In the 2017 letter, the group said that BLM had not fully analyzed the environmental and social costs of allowing oil and gas exploration in the region, including the costs associated with the release of greenhouse gases and with global warming.

Morrison said that the current letter from the Wild Earth group also expressed concerns about the impact of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and possible affects on the Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

Calls to Wild Earth were not returned by press time.

An industry association representative said his group supports the lease sale as part of the BLM obligation to manage public resources and as a means to provide needed revenues to the state.

“The upcoming quarterly lease sale indicates that business is back to normal in Southeast New Mexico,” said Jim Winchester, executive director of the Independent Petroleum Association of New Mexico.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.