New Mexico’s beautiful Chaco Canyon region is home to ancient ruins that are sacred to the Pueblo and Navajo people. Now, the government wants to let fossil fuel companies frack millions of acres of land in the area—putting this priceless cultural heritage at grave risk. The next four days are a crucial window to tell the Bureau of Land Management that's unacceptable. Send a message: don’t frack near Chaco Canyon! More than a thousand years ago, Chaco Canyon was the spiritual, economic and political center of a vast civilization that stretched across much of the American southwest. Without modern tools or wheels, the ancient Anasazi people built huge ceremonial Great Houses in and around Chaco Canyon and connected them to spiritually significant places with massive roads, astonishingly straight and as wide as two-lane highways. Chacoan civilization left no written texts, so these feats of architecture and engineering are a uniquely valuable inheritance from that vanished culture, considered sacred to this day by the Pueblo—the descendents of the Chacoans—and Navajo.
Now that priceless legacy is under threat.
Fossil fuel companies are moving in around Chaco Canyon, as risky new horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technology makes it increasingly possible to exploit shale deposits throughout the San Juan Basin. It’s bad enough that the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) already allows extraction in the region—but now it's moving toward approving hundreds of new permits for oil and gas companies to frack and drill millions of acres. The area threatened by fracking includes 35 Chaco Great Houses and a vast network of ancient roads. Tell the BLM: that’s an outrage. The BLM is currently revising its land use plan for the Chaco region. They could greatly strengthen protections for these invaluable cultural treasures—if enough of us speak up.
In the next few days, we have a valuable window: the BLM is taking public comments on environmental impact until next Wednesday, May 28. Rainforest Action Network is part of a coalition of groups—including the Solstice Project, Earthworks and CREDO Action—fighting to protect Chaco from fracking. Together, let’s tell the BLM that fracking in the Chaco Canyon region is one extraction project that the public won’t just rubber-stamp. The legacy of Chacoan civilization is a national and world treasure—Chaco Canyon is an official National Historical Park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
If we won’t protect the Chacoan inheritance, then nothing is sacred. Will you add your voice?
P.S. Our friends at the Solstice Project are working on a beautiful new PBS documentary about the archaeological riches of Chaco Canyon. In response to the fracking threat, they’ve released a four-minute excerpt of this work in progress. See just how important it is to protect Chaco here: Fracking Threatens Chaco's Sacred American Heritage (WOTL) from matt dibble on Vimeo.
- Coal Mining. For over forty years, coal companies have strip-mined Appalachia for the last remaining seams of coal while ending the power of organized labor by reducing workforces through mechanization. The regulation of strip-mining opened up loopholes that allowed coal companies to literally explode the tops off of mountains. To date over 500 mountains have been destroyed by mountaintop removal. Countless creeks, rivers and other water sources have been poisoned. And thousands of people have been exposed to the worst effects of dirty air and dirty water from mountaintop removal. In the interior west, Big Coal is further mining huge coal reserves in the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming.
- Natural gas and fracking. For the past decade we've seen the proliferation of hydraulic fracturing (or fracking), which stimulates wells drilled into gas and coal-bed methane. This process has had a huge human impact and created a toxic legacy on the environmental landscape as well as local community health. Large-scale fracking operations are spreading across North America.
- Oil infrastructure. The biggest environmental fight since the forest wars of the 1990s has manifested around the Keystone XL pipeline. But Keystone XL is only the beginning as Big Oil is building a network of pipelines throughout Canada and the United States. Spills and leaks are growing concerns as Big Oil weaves this spider web of death and destruction across the continent.
- Fossil fuel exports. The coasts are also becoming hot spots of attention as dozens of oil, gas and coal proposals are on the table in the Pacific Northwest and a fight is growing over a fracked-gas export terminal on Chesapeake Bay. Industry doesn’t just want to use mined and fracked fossil fuels for domestic energy production, they also want to export dirty fuels for big profits to Europe and Asia.
The court called us up front and, one by one, called us up to the clerk who gave us a paper which said, in part, "The US Attorney's office for the District of Columbia or the office of the Attorney General for the D. of C. has declined to proceed with prosecution against you for the incident that led to your arrest for the offense of UNLAWFUL ENTRY. This means that your arrest has been NO PAPERED. However, the prosecuting attorney could seek to proceed with prosecution at a later date.Was it the threat of taking it to court, the sheer number of arrestees, or the upcoming presidential election that swayed them? Maybe all three.Our lawyer afterwards said that in 20 years of experience he knows of only one case where someone who was "no papered" was later prosecuted for the charge. The 21 of us went outside the courthouse and after exchanging hugs we sang "If I Had a Hammer" together. We also talked about the next big action for many of us, the March on Blair Mountain. We were all juiced!"
Rainforest Action Network believes that corporations should be allowed to extract and process mineral fuels only if they can do so without harming human health or contaminating the air, water, and soil, or failing to maintain ecological integrity, with an eye on impacts at all levels: local, regional, and global. This means achieving the following goals: 1. No water pollution: Protecting public health, the environment, and the climate from toxic, hazardous, and carcinogenic chemicals used in the extraction of fossil fuel energy resources; 2. Low emissions: Protecting public health, the environment, and the climate from pollutants emitted during the drilling and ongoing production of energy resources; 3. No-go zones: Protecting sacred areas, fragile ecosystems, high conservation and high carbon value areas, neighborhoods, drinking watersheds, and densely populated areas targeted for energy development; 4. Landowner Consent: Continuing to develop and then implementing laws and policies that make surface and mineral estates co-equal and ensure that landowners have essential rights to negotiate, including the right to say ‘no’ to energy development. 5. Indigenous Rights: Honoring the unique right of Indigenous Communities to free, prior, informed consent as defined in the United Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. Consent should be sought via a process that respects the traditional decision-making structures of the community. The process should be mutually agreed upon and recorded, while also complying with and building upon any applicable laws and regulations.We would love to hear your feedback on this policy.
- U.S. headquarters to Shell, CononcoPhillips, BP and Exxon.
- Operational centers to many other oil companies and oil services companies, from Chevron to Halliburton.
- Home of the largest oil refinery in North America (Exxon-owned Baytown Refinery, Baytown, TX).
- Big Oil’s dominant paradigm is reinforced in Texas by its gas-guzzling car culture.
- The Keystone XL pipeline is coming down right through Texas carrying Alberta tar sands oil from Alberta to Port Arthur on the Gulf Coast (because polluting the Gulf with offshore-drilled oil isn't quite enough.)