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Local environmental groups speak out against BLM oil and gas lease sale

Jonny Coker

Yesterday, The Bureau of Land Management began selling leases for parcels of land in Southeast New Mexico in 3 counties, covering 3,300 acres across Eddy, Lea, and Chaves counties.

In Las Cruces, individuals from the Holy Cross Retreat Center, the Sierra Club, and New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light delivered a letter to the local Bureau of Land Management office to protest the leasing of public land in the Permian Basin. Father Henry Atkins is an eco-theologian with the Holy Cross Retreat Center, and said the goal was to voice disapproval of the whole agency’s relationship with oil and gas companies.

“We are in the midst of a crisis, and people live as if that is not true. We continue to have wildfires, we continue to have floodings, we continue to have many, many extraordinary events,” he said. “We need to be in kinship with creation, and not just view creation as something that we view as being able to use any way we want.”

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, New Mexico accounted for more than 13% of the entire country’s crude oil production last year. Father Atkins said that even though the oil and gas industry is one of the biggest components of New Mexico’s economy, the preservation of land is more important to him than money brought into the state.

“There are things in life that are more important than certain kinds of economic benefits, and we need to realize that we have to, in many ways now, begin to rethink what we mean when we talk about an economic system, and what we mean when we talk about economic benefits.”

When KRWG Reached out to the New Mexico BLM state office with questions, a spokesperson sent a written response:

“As the BLM transitions to a clean energy economy, Congress through the Inflation Reduction Act, needs to continue to hold oil & gas lease sales.”

In response to activists who say that the BLM is not doing enough to transition New Mexico toward a higher percentage of energy alternatives, the agency said, The BLM recently announced a Record of Decision for the SunZia Southwest Transmission Project, which, when completed, will transport up to 4,500 megawatts of primarily renewable energy from New Mexico to markets in Arizona and California.”

According to the BLM New Mexico State Office, the May 25 oil and gas lease sale netted nearly $79 Million.

Jonny Coker is a Multimedia Journalist for KRWG Public Media. He has lived in Southern New Mexico for most of his life, growing up in the small Village of Cloudcroft, and earning a degree in Journalism and Media Studies at New Mexico State University.