The Western Environmental Law Center has officially filed a lawsuit regarding the October 2014 oil and gas lease sales parcels located east of the Continental Divide in the vicinity of the Rio Chama and Rio Gallina watersheds. Over a hundred of you wrote letters of protest to the BLM regarding these parcels in our watershed and received unsatisfactory and dismissive replies from BLM officials.

This lawsuit, headed by Kyle Tisdel of WELC, eloquently challenges the final actions of both Forest Service, BLM and Sally Jewell (US Secretary of the Interior) and Tom Vilsack (US Secretary of Agriculture) regarding the leasing of these parcels. In a 39 page legal document, WELC spells out how these agencies are basically radically noncompliant with NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) requirements.

The suit points out the unlawful issuance of these leases during a pending Resource Management Plan Amendment and a Forest Plan Revision, as well as a failure by these agencies to take a hard look at oil and gas development impacts at the leasing stage instead of when the parcel development ensues. BLM, in an oddly twisted approach, claims that all impacts would be linked to “as yet undetermined future levels of lease development”. Even more importantly, these agencies are basing their analysis, when it happens, on old and outdated fracking technologies with total disregard for the improvements and innovations in horizontal drilling technologies and multi-stage fracking. These new technologies would significantly increase environmental impact on our watershed and should be taken into account.

In a nutshell, the WELC suit claims that BLM’s actions are “arbitrary, capricious and abuse discretion, in excess of statutory authority and limitations, short of statutory right, and not in accordance with the law and procedures required by law.”

Go WELC! And thank you to Kyle Tisdel for his persistent, calm and effective advocacy for clean water, land and air here in our beloved Rio Chama watershed and elsewhere.

You can link to the lawsuit document here.

WELC’s website and an opportunity to donate to this important organization can be found here.

RACC Plans a Solar Forum

Wouldn’t it be glorious to travel through our watershed with the knowledge that even our far north valley is finding a way to join the new energy economy? As we continue to do the work of fending off oil and gas industry’s plans to frack in our watershed, we are turning to the idea of solar alternatives, as well as the work they will provide to local residents, as a way to move into the new energy future here in the Rio Chama Valley.

Our plans to host a local solar forum this summer are progressing! We’re pretty excited about this project as we move to begin to establish the Rio Chama Watershed as a model for sustainable development of alternative energy. We know this is an ambitious goal and we will need your help, enthusiasm and work to make this long-term goal possible. This forum will get us off to a nice start as we begin to develop a plan to move forward on this idea.

The forum will be an opportunity for community members to explore the idea of going solar on their property here in the watershed. A panel of 6 local solar users, all invested in various solar systems, will present the specific system in use on their property, and explain what they see as the pros, cons, costs etc. An opportunity to ask questions will follow the ten-minute presentations.

Stay tuned for location, date and time. We will announce this solar forum event in the Abiquiu News as well as in an email invitation to members RACC. Let’s go solar together!

President of RACC Meets With BLM

Ever wonder how RACC spends its time? A lot of our time is spent in meetings!! Along with our monthly board meetings and special meetings around projects, we are attending other public meetings like the Forest Revision Plan meetings, Chaco Coalition meetings, Rio Chama Water planning meetings, BLM oil and gas auctions, Chama Rotary Club meetings etc. While the board of RACC is small, we believe in the necessity to stay connected to groups involved in the fate of our watershed. We are often meeting with paid environmental activists and government officials and are the only unpaid participants in the room.

On Thursday, April 28, Bill Clark, President of RACC, Erik Schlenker-Goodrich with Western Environmental Law Center and Monique DiGiorgio from Chama Peak Land Alliance met with the BLM Taos Field Office regarding the deferred Cebolla parcels from the January 2013 Oil and Gas lease sale. At this meeting we learned that BLM’s current plan is to keep the Cebolla parcels in “indefinite deferral” status. The Taos Field Office currently has no oil and gas development and has no plan to move forward with any revision of their current 2012 Resource Management Plan. So for now, Cebolla is safe from any oil and gas development. However, WELC did stress at the meeting that action would be taken if and when these parcels in the Rio Chama Watershed come up for lease sale.

Vigilance around watershed issues takes time and persistence and a lot of simply showing up for meetings and voicing our concerns, but from our experience this strategy pays off! Our goal is to give ourselves, and you, peace of mind about the fate of our beautiful watershed.
On a final note, we will be adding occasional book reviews to our bi-monthly newsletter! These will be books we think might contribute to your knowledge of watershed issues or pique your interest in the energy economy in general.

A Field Philosopher’s Guide to Fracking: How one Texas Town Stood Up to Big Oil and Gas by Adam Briggle is a great ride through one small town’s struggle with oil and gas development. Your guide is a young philosophy professor and parent who tours you through the characters on both sides of the issue and deftly explains motives, agendas and world outlooks. The one thing that struck me about the oil and gas world view Briggle explains is that the industry believes it is acceptable, as does the government, to do a live experiment on the general public that has such huge health risks.