Groups sue BLM over New Mexico oil, gas operations

By OGJ editors
HOUSTON, Jan. 18 -- The Western Environmental Law Center and other groups filed a lawsuit against the US Bureau of Land Management claiming the agency violated federal law in granting oil and gas leases on public land in New Mexico.

The lawsuit, filed Jan. 14 in US District Court in Albuquerque, claims that BLM issued 92 oil and gas leases last year that fail to address greenhouse gas pollution resulting from oil and gas operations.

The lawsuit asked the court to suspend the leases pending full compliance with federal law. The leases are in San Juan basin near Farmington and Carlsbad. A BLM spokesman said he doubted that any production had started yet on those leases.

WELC said oil and gas operations in New Mexico are conservatively estimated to account for 23% of the state's GHG emissions, second only to transportation.

"BLM failed to provide the public with sufficient environmental information regarding the lease sales," said the lawsuit, which also said BLM has not adopted policies aimed at more efficient drilling practices.

Tony Herrell, BLM New Mexico deputy state director, minerals, said the agency has worked for years with industry to minimize emissions and make operations more efficient.

"We've taken a pretty hard look at this," Herrell said of reducing emissions from oil and gas operations. "It's a process of continual improvement."

He noted US oil and gas production contributed to lower GHG emissions than does much of the oil and gas production outside the US.

Other plaintiffs in the lawsuit were Amigo Bravos, Common Ground United, Natural Resources Defense Council, Oil and Gas Accountability Project, San Juan Citizens Alliance, and the Southwest Environmental Center. The Oil and Gas Accountability project is part of the Earthworks organization.

Amigo Bravos is a nonprofit organization that works to preserve and restore water quality and natural waterway in New Mexico.

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