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Biden Bans Oil And Gas Leasing Near New Mexico Cultural Site

The U.S. Administration has banned new oil and gas leasing near the Chaco Culture National Historic Park in New Mexico as part of a plan to protect the area and a larger portion of federal land from drilling.

The Chaco Canyon, a major center of ancestral Pueblo culture between 850 and 1250, is a World Heritage site on the list of the UN’s cultural agency, UNESCO. In addition to the Chaco Culture National Historical Park, the World Heritage property includes the Aztec Ruins National Monument and several smaller Chaco sites managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Now the U.S. Department of the Interior bans for 20 years new leasing on federal land within 10 miles of the Chaco Culture National Historic Park. The suspension of leases does not include private, tribal, or state lands.   

“Today marks an important step in fulfilling President Biden’s commitments to Indian Country, by protecting Chaco Canyon, a sacred place that holds deep meaning for the Indigenous peoples whose ancestors have called this place home since time immemorial,” Interior Department Secretary Deb Haaland, who is a New Mexican and a member of the Pueblo of Laguna tribe, said in a statement carried by Reuters.

Last month, the Navajo Nation voted to reject any buffer around the Chaco Culture Historical National Park, saying that “If the buffer zone is adopted, the Navajo allottees who rely on the income realized from oil and natural gas royalties will be pushed into greater poverty.”

Oil and gas companies have also opposed the no-leasing area around the park.

New Mexico is the second-largest oil-producing state after Texas, with which it shares the top-producing basin, the Permian. In 2021, New Mexico accounted for 11.1% of U.S. crude oil production, second only to Texas and its share of 42.4%, per Energy Information Administration (EIA) data. 

New Mexico saw the highest growth in crude oil production of any U.S. state last year, with output gains of 300,000 barrels per day (bpd) accounting for half of America’s oil production increase, the EIA said in a report last month.  

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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