National Parks in NM threatened by oil and gas development

A report of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks is sounding the alarm about damage from oil and gas exploration in four national parks and urging the federal government to do more to protect them. Half of the parks are in New Mexico, the second largest oil producing country in the country.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park borders the Permian Basin, the largest oil producing region in the country. The report highlights threats to surface and underground resources at the site, which has more than 119 caves, as well as potential damage to the state’s tourism industry due to poor air quality.

The National Park Service in 2021 told the State Department of Environment that ozone levels at the park exceeded national standards and that, of all the parks surveyed, pollution at Carlsbad Caverns was most heavily influenced by oil and gas. NASA also discovered a massive methane leakprobably from a gas well in the area in 2022.

The report is critical of that of the Environmental Protection Agency Decision to bet on his exam Designating the Permian Basin an ozone depletion zone for exceeding federal air quality standards. This would have further curbed emissions and potentially led to drilling in the area.

The report recognizes that the state new oil and gas emissions regulation and draft rules from the Bureau of Land Management and Environmental Protection Agency are positive steps but require an assessment of the “cumulative risks” posed by the industry.

Emily Wolf, senior program coordinator for New Mexico the nature conservation association of the national parks, is quoted in the report as saying that an uptick in drilling in the Permian Basin is “wreaking havoc on air quality” in the region. She told KUNM the state’s emissions regulations are “national leaders,” but said regulators are constrained by low enforcement capacity and that she’d like to see more in the Permian Basin.

“Holding oil and gas companies accountable and basically just calling back and shutting down these new leasing and oil and gas drilling operations,” she said.

The report also highlights that northwest New Mexico’s Chaco Culture National Historical Park, a sacred site for many tribes, is under threat from gas companies drilling over 37,000 wells and building 15,000 miles of roads in the area. In addition to the cultural resources themselves, the report warns of threats to the region’s air, water and public health.

NASA also found a methane hotspot in this region, finally 2016 that the leak over the Four Corners “has been primarily associated with the production and transportation of natural gas.”

The Interior Ministry Has suggested Discontinuing new 20-year leases within 10 miles of the park, which the report describes as “critical to resource conservation,” although this does not apply to existing operations. New Mexico has too a 12 mile buffer on state land around the site, although it’s scheduled to be phased out later this year.

The report also lists air quality in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park and wildlife migration routes in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park as threatened by extractive industries.

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