The fight over fracturing ("fracking") associated with directional drilling plans for the Mancos Shale in northern New Mexico is heating up. On March 11, 2015, a coalition of environmental groups, including Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Wildearth Guardians, and Natural Resources Defense Council, filed suit against the U.S. Department of Interior and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), alleging violations of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA).
The Complaint arises from BLM's decisions to approve at least 130 applications for permit to drill (APD) in the Mancos Shale/Gallup formations. Although it is currently unclear where each of the associated wells is located, the environmental groups allege the wells are near Chaco Culture National Historic Park ("Chaco Canyon"). Chaco Canyon is a United Nations World Heritage Site, which contains monumental stone structures, cultural sites, and ceremonial roads that were constructed by ancestors of some of the Native American tribes in the region. The environmental coalition alleges that BLM has engaged in "an egregious pattern and practice of approving drilling permits into the Mancos Shale through piecemeal, boilerplate environmental assessments."1 The coalition further alleges that fracking near Chaco Canyon threatens emission of hazardous air pollutants and the area's surface and groundwater supplies.2
The coalition seeks to enjoin BLM from approving any APDs that permit horizontal drilling or hydraulic fracturing in the Mancos Shale and any future drilling pursuant to APDs previously approved by BLM, pending full compliance with NEPA and NHPA. Previous efforts made by archeologists and environmentalists to set aside more than 1 million acres around Chaco Canyon as an area of critical environmental concern have failed.