BLM delays New Mexico lease sale due to environmental protests

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico — The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has postponed a scheduled oil and gas lease sale after environmental groups raised concerns about transparency. The sale is now scheduled for September 1, 2016.

Environmental groups, such as WildEarth Guardians and “Keep it in the Ground”, expressed concern that insufficient notice was provided for moving the location of the sale on July 20 from Santa Fe to Roswell, 200 miles away.

According to an Associated Press report in the Midland Reporter-Telegram, BLM spokeswoman Lisa Morrison said the BLM management opted for Roswell given that all of the parcels up for bid are in southeastern New Mexico and that the area’s two field offices would be able to help coordinate the sale. Activists argued that the move was intended to stifle their ongoing criticism, a claim the BLM denied.

Lately, environmental groups have gone from submitting written protests to showing up at auctions with protest signs and chanting. Dozens of activists protested in downtown Reno in March, holding signs that read “Keep It in the Ground” and “Oil, Coal, Gas (equals) Climate Chaos.” The month before, nearly 100 environmentalists were escorted out of an auction in Salt Lake City when they refused to stop singing.

With the recent uptick in oil prices, there has been renewed interest on acquiring Federal leases in New Mexico and other prospects for oil and gas production.