A bill to establish a permanent 10-mile buffer around Chaco Canyon to protect it from oil and gas extraction activity passed the U.S. House on Wednesday with bipartisan support. The bill, sponsored by U.S. Reps. Ben Ray Luján, Deb Haaland and Xochitl Torres Small, would prohibit oil and gas activity on nearly 500 square miles of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) held land surrounding the Chaco Culture National Historical Park. The bill passed 245-174, with all Democrats in the House voting in favor of the legislation, along with 17 Republicans. The legislation would withdraw BLM-held land within the 10-mile buffer around the Chaco Canyon park from future oil and gas development, but would not prevent the Navajo Nation or individuals with allotments in the buffer zone from pursuing energy development.
The All Pueblo Council of Governors adopted a resolution last week opposing license applications from two private companies to transport and store nuclear waste in Lea County, New Mexico and Andrews County, Texas. The council, which represents 20 sovereign Pueblo nations of New Mexico and Texas, affirmed its commitment to protecting Pueblo natural and cultural resources from “risks associated with transport of the nation’s growing inventory of high level nuclear waste,” it said in a statement.
Holtec International and Interim Storage Partners LLC each applied for licenses with the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission for transporting and storing nuclear waste in New Mexico and Texas.
Holtec International applied for a 40-year license to construct and operate a multibillion-dollar complex in Lea County to house 120,000 metric tons of nuclear waste. The consolidated interim storage facility would house 8,600 metric tons of uranium initially. The uranium waste would be transported into New Mexico from nuclear generator sites across the country and housed in steel casks placed 40 feet underground. RELATED: An evolving nuclear agenda spurs plutonium pit production at LANL
Interim Storage Partners applied to build a smaller storage facility in Andrews County, Texas that would hold 40,000 metric tons of nuclear waste.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The federal government is proceeding with plans for a December auction of oil and gas drilling leases on thousands of acres of land in the Greater Chaco region. A comment period on the proposal opened today and will continue through October 31, despite a pending Senate bill that would protect the area, and without a cultural review and consultation promised by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Miya King-Flaherty, organizer with the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter, said the government is violating its own procedures by not having a resource management plan in place. “They’re not following their own rules,” King-Flaherty said; “they’re really just rubber-stamping these drilling permits while not giving the thorough analysis that they are mandated to do.” New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich have introduced legislation to protect the greater Chaco region.
A New Mexico congressional candidate publicly apologized to pueblo leaders for her comments on a national television news show. The apology came from Republican Congressional District 1 candidate Janice Arnold-Jones at an All Pueblo Council of Governors event on Thursday morning for state and federal candidates. Before the candidates’ speeches to the council began, tribal leaders brought up the comments Arnold-Jones made on a Fox News show weeks earlier about her opponent Deb Haaland. “Today, the All Pueblo Council of Governors addressed the recent remarks by Republican congressional candidate Janice Arnold Jones in which she questioned the ethnicity of her Democrat opponent, Deb Haaland of Laguna Pueblo,” according to a statement from the council. “The APCG took issue with her remarks and advised her that many of the Governors were offended.
State Sen. Linda Lopez is calling for the head of the New Mexico Public Education Department to resign over comments last month touting Manifest Destiny as one of the “fundamental principles of the country” — remarks that drew a scathing rebuke from Pueblo leaders. The department says Secretary-Designate Christopher Ruszkowski has reached out to tribal officials to express remorse after his comments at a charter school conference were reported in The Albuquerque Journal. But the remarks have still stirred outrage among indigenous New Mexicans who argue Ruszkowski demonstrated a lack of understanding about the history of westward expansion and the role of the education system in dispossessing Native Americans. The comments even drew the attention of The Washington Post this month. In a letter to Ruszkowski, Lopez wrote that he had still not explained what she described as “ill-advised comments.”
Saturday night, freshman state Rep. Derrick Lente watched one of his first initiatives turn into a showdown on the House floor. Earlier in the session, Lente’s memorial to protect cultural and historical sites near Chaco Canyon received bipartisan support and passed through the House State Government, Indian and Veterans’ Affairs Committee unanimously. Something changed, though. By the time it reached the House floor, the Democrat’s memorial had triggered uncertainty and skepticism from Republicans. That’s because there was an elephant lurking in the room, said Lente, who is from the Pueblo of Sandia.