NAVAJO NATION (KRQE) – The debate over drilling near Chaco Canyon continues. The Navajo Nation Tribal Council is worried about protection in President Joe Biden’s $3.5 trillion climate change bill. The Navajo Nation’s governing body states on their website the drilling ban is a threat to their livelihoods.

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New Mexico’s Republican Party supports their opposition. “They’re being targeted and that’s being removed from them and that’s a significant source of income in many cases it’s one of the few real sources of income that they have of big value,” says Representative Jim Townsend.  

The proposed $3.5 trillion bill funds social, health and environmental programs. In a news release from last month the Navajo Nation Council states they applaud the historic inclusion of tribal program investments in the bill, but they oppose a 10-mile buffer zone on drilling outside Chaco.

They say they have been meeting with New Mexico’s congressional delegation to limit the buffer zone to five miles. They say that would still protect the park while also not hurting Navajo families who depend on that oil and gas production for their income.

The following is a statement from Senator Ben Ray Lujan:

“The New Mexico delegation has long supported protecting Chaco through many legislative sessions, including when the Chaco Cultural Heritage Protection Act passed the House last Congress. This is an important cultural and historical site in New Mexico, and it’s critical we preserve it for generations to come.” 

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland did not provide a comment but in the past, she has shown her support of protecting native lands. 

“By introducing these protections for Chaco Canyon we’re going beyond protecting a beautiful piece of New Mexico. We’re recognizing the special significance Chaco Canyon holds for Native Americans and all New Mexicans,” Haaland said.

Rep. Townsend says there needs to be a hearing before approving any language prohibiting new oil and gas development. This would allow members of Congress to hear directly from the Navajo people.