Home News Local News Leases on Chaves County property involved in disputed BLM auction

Leases on Chaves County property involved in disputed BLM auction

The September lease sale planned by the U.S Bureau of Land Management, which provided this photo, includes 8,813 acres in Chaves County. (Submitted Photo)

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The U.S. Bureau of Land Management plans to move ahead with the sale of numerous oil and gas leases next week involving Chaves and neighboring counties, although two advocacy groups have lodged official complaints about environmental impacts and what they characterized as incomplete analyses on effects in the region.

A total of 142 parcels totaling about 50,797 acres are involved in the Sept. 5 and 6 online auctions, according to the BLM. The auction is scheduled to be held on energynet.com.

Of the 142 parcels, 18 totaling about 8,813 acres are in Chaves County. Eddy County has 56 parcels of 21,024 acres and Lea County has 68 parcels of 20,960 acres.

This is the first auction to involve Chaves County land since September 2017.

No pre-sale offers have been made for the leases to be auctioned off, according to the sales notice, and the minimum bid is $2 an acre. But the BLM has received much more from recent auctions. A December 2017 auction involving seven parcels of 2,104 acres in Lea and Eddy counties received $30.36 million, while a June 7, 2008, auction of 24 parcels of 4,152 acres in Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas earned $7.73 million. The money is used to support public land management and Department of the Interior activities.

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Originally, the BLM intended to auction off 173 parcels but deferred 31 of them in Eddy County that were thought to be areas where Carlsbad’s drinking water could be affected or are within a mile of the Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

The impact of oil and gas drilling and emissions on the national park area drew the most concern from one of the groups protesting the auction, the Coalition to Protect America’s National Park, which is based in Washington, D.C., but represents retired, current and former National Park Service employees, including people who have worked at Carlsbad Caverns.

That group also wrote that the BLM did not comply with federal requirements regarding planning, obtaining public comment and properly determining the environmental effects of more drilling and emissions in the region.

Lack of planning and proper analyses were also two of the complaints listed by the WildEarth Guardians, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group based in Santa Fe.

“It’s too early to say whether or not we’ll seek a stay or injunction of the lease sale, because we have not seen BLM’s final decision yet,” said Rebecca Fischer, a lawyer who wrote the protest letter.

She said that proposed lease sales could lock the region into 40 or more years of allowing more drilling and emissions in an area already crowded with activity, which she said has a global effect because of the impact on climate change.

“The Permian Basin is of particular import to Guardians because it is one of the largest oil and gas basins in the U.S.,” she said. “Therefore, it is a huge source of greenhouse gas emissions. We also have members in SE NM (southeast New Mexico) who are concerned about the on-the-ground impacts from oil and gas as well.”

Industry members could not be reached by press time. A BLM representative said she could not immediately comment.

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