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U.S. agency to review oil, gas leases at Chaco Culture National Historic Park

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The U.S. government, environmentalists and an energy company have reached a settlement over contested oil and gas leases in an area in New Mexico held sacred by Native American tribes.

The agreement approved by a federal judge earlier this week would pause drilling on a few dozen parcels near Chaco Culture National Historical Park while federal land managers conduct an environmental review and consult further with tribes.

U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland has initiated a plan for halting development on federal land around the park and providing a pathway for tribes in New Mexico and Arizona to be more involved in decision-making. Federal officials are planning more public meetings on the plan later this month.

The settlement stemmed from a petition filed in 2020 that challenged the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s decisions authorizing the leasing of 42 parcels for oil and gas development.

The plaintiffs argued that the agency violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to take a hard look at cumulative greenhouse gas emissions, climate change and health impacts, and environmental justice issues. They also said opportunities for public participation were inadequate.