Now that the world leaders have left the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, citizens around the world are wondering if they will keep their promises to cut carbon emissions. As for U.S. President Biden, the verdict is mixed. He is trying to protect some of the world’s most sacred and important Indigenous sites at New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon with a moratorium on new oil and gas leasing. On the other hand, critics say he could do more to halt a whopper of an oil sale in the Gulf of Mexico.
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Chaco Canyon was a cultural hub for Pueblo peoples from about 850 to 1250 A.D. The landscape still holds outstanding remains of buildings used for homes, business, astronomy and ceremonies. The Biden administration proposed a 20-year moratorium on any new oil and gas leasing within 10 miles of the Chaco Culture National Historical Park, which is a National Park Service unit.
“Chaco Canyon is a sacred place that holds deep meaning for the Indigenous peoples whose ancestors lived, worked, and thrived in that high desert community,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, as reported by Huff Post. Haaland, an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Laguna, is the first Native American Cabinet secretary. “Now is the time to consider more enduring protections for the living landscape that is Chaco, so that we can pass on this rich cultural legacy to future generations.”
Chaco is not safe yet. The Interior Department will pause new leasing for two years while it assesses environmental factors and considers public comments.
Meanwhile, drillers are rubbing their hands together in eager anticipation of a ridiculously big area of the Gulf of Mexico the Department of the Interior is opening for lease sales. The 80 million acres could produce over a billion barrels of oil and 4.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
The Biden administration has protested this enormous invasion of the seabed. But in June, a federal judge in Louisiana managed to strike down Biden’s executive order to halt new gas and oil leases in federal waters and lands. Critics suggest that Biden could fight harder if he were willing to take more political and legal risks.
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