The Western Environmental Law Center, along with Amigos Bravos, Chaco Alliance, Diné Citizens Against Ruining our Environment, Earthworks, Natural Resources Defense Council, Rio Arriba Concerned Citizens, San Juan Citizens Alliance, Sierra Club, and WildEarth Guardians (together “Conservation Groups”), submit the following Comments regarding the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) Farmington Field Office (“FFO”) Environmental Assessment (“EA”) and unsigned Finding of No Significant Impact (“FONSI”) for the January 2015 Oil and Gas Lease Sale, which includes a proposed action to sell 5 parcels covering 2,802 acres of Federal mineral estate under standard terms, conditions, and lease stipulations. These 5 parcels are on Navajo allotted lands with a federal mineral estate administered by the FFO. The parcels were originally included in the FFO’s October 2014 lease sale, DOI-BLM-NM-F010- 0154-EA, but were “deferred until after the FFO Mancos Shale/Gallup Formation RMPA/EIS alternatives have been developed.” Oct. 2014 Lease Sale EA at 14. While the Mancos RMP remains incomplete, the FFO has nevertheless chosen to move forward with the sale of these parcels.
Because the Mancos RMP remains incomplete, the applicable land use plan for this action is the 2003 Farmington RMP, with “the analysis of projected surface disturbance impacts … based on well densities listed in the Reasonable Foreseeable Development (“RFD”) Scenario included in the 2003 Farmington RMP.” EA at 4. However, as will be explained in further detail, reliance on the 2003 RMP and RFD fails to demonstrate that impacts associated with the proposed leasing will not be significant, or that leasing will otherwise sufficiently protect resources in the FFO. This is due to the fact that, by the BLM’s own admission, the RMP and RFD do not account for the environmental impacts of horizontal drilling and development of Mancos shale. Yet by leasing in this case, the BLM is poised to facilitate just this kind of unforeseen development, despite any analysis as to the actual environmental impacts on both project and programmatic level.