Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment et al. v. U.S. Bureau of Land Management et al.

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Credit: Adam Meek/Flickr

In March 2015, we challenged the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) after it issued new permits for horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) of wells in the Greater Chaco region of northwest New Mexico. The lands that surround the Chaco Culture National Historical Park, a United Nations World Heritage Site, are home to cultural treasures and ancient ceremonial roads. Native communities use this area for traditional and spiritual practices and regard the entire ancestral landscape as culturally significant.

NRDC partnered with local and tribal organizations in an effort to protect these sacred sites, including Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment, located on the Navajo Nation. We alleged that the BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act in its failure to consider the impacts of horizontal drilling and fracking on the environment prior to issuing drilling permits. We also alleged that the BLM violated the National Historic Preservation Act by failing to consult with Native American tribes prior to approving fracking. When the U.S. District Court of New Mexico declined to stop the BLM from approving any drilling permits until the agency complied with the law, we appealed the decision to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In May 2019, in a major win for our coalition, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the BLM failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act when it approved the horizontal drilling and fracking of shale oil wells in the Mancos Shale formation in Greater Chaco. These wells are located in close proximity to the Chaco Culture National Historical Park World Heritage Site, Chacoan Outliers, and Chaco Culture Archaeological Protection Sites. All told, the court reversed the approval of 25 drilling permits—and the case has implications for future oil and gas approvals.

NRDC supports permanent protection of the area and meaningful government-to-government consultation with tribes. Our coalition will continue to advocate that the Biden/Harris administration ensure tribal voices are heard—and that it rectifies the damage done under the Trump administration’s relentless push for fossil fuel extraction

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