Wells creep toward Chaco

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Mary Shinn/The Durango Herald A spiderweb of roads connects mostly natural-gas wells in the San Juan Basin south of Farmington. Advocates argue better planning could prevent hodgepodge development in southern areas of the basin where gas and oil companies are starting to use hydraulic fracturing to extract oil.
Photo by Mary Shinn/The Durango Herald. A spiderweb of roads connects mostly natural-gas wells in the San Juan Basin south of Farmington. Advocates argue better planning could prevent hodgepodge development in southern areas of the basin where gas and oil companies are starting to use hydraulic fracturing to extract oil.

Summary of Wells creep toward Chaco: Advocates fight for better planning near ancient sites

Chaco Culture National Historical Park is already surrounded by land leased for natural gas extraction, nearly 90 percent of the land in the San Juan Basin is leased for that purpose. A new network of oil wells developed by hydraulic fracturing along U.S. Highway 550 is being planned with companies planning to expand even more.  Three companies plan to invest $600 million in the next year to year and a half, with a single one, Encana, planning 45-50 new exploratory wells.  Environmental, archaeological and tribal groups worry about the lack of planning to continue to preserve the ancient ruins and pristine environment. One of the environmental concerns is flaring of wells, where the excess methane is burnt off,  leading to air pollution and smog. There is also concern about the possible contamination of drinking water. For archaeologists and tribal members there is concern about damage to these scared ancient sites that literally dot the landscape.

[quote_center]“Chaco is not a single place on the map; it’s the center of the system,” said Barbara West, the former Superintendent at Chaco Canyon in the Durango Herald[/quote_center]

The BLM states it is in the process of revising an overarching regional resource plan due to be completed by end of 2016, but the agency notes that it owns only 19 percent of the land within 5 mile radius while the rest belongs to other groups such as various Tribes, and private interests. Advocates worry that the piecemeal approach to  new development at an ever increasing pace will end up causing irreparable harm.

Summary of Wells creep toward Chaco: Advocates fight for better planning near ancient sites

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