The People Say “No!” to Dirty Fracking Water

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Organizers from the Red Nation Santa Fe and Albuquerque chapters, Frack Off Greater Chaco Coalition, and community members picket outside of the Produced Water Conference held at the Hotel Santa Fe Hacienda and Spa.

by Nicolás Cruz

More than forty people gathered in Santa Fe on Friday, November 16 for a press conference held by The Red Nation Santa Fe and Albuquerque chapters alongside members of the Frack Off Greater Chaco Coalition. Protestors gathered outside the Hotel Santa Fe Hacienda and Spa, where the Produced Water Conference brought together officials from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Interior (DOI) and New Mexico state government with oil and gas industry representatives to discuss how to make it easier to dump “produced water” back into the state’s watersheds. Organizers sought to bring attention to the danger of recycling fracking fluid, a combination of freshwater and a wide variety of hazardous chemicals like benzene, brine, and formaldehyde used to break up shale rock for oil extraction, which the industry disingenuously calls “produced water.” Click here to learn more about produced water. Noting that government officials were collaborating with industry representatives behind closed doors at a $150-a-ticket conference, organizers also delivered the message that Indigenous communities and New Mexican residents would not allow these backroom deals to be made without their input.

After gathering on the sidewalk outside the Hotel Santa Fe, which is partly owned by the Picuris Pueblo, protestors decided to take the message to the conference attendees by marching through the parking lot and around the entire property, chanting “We won’t drink your fracking water” and “You can’t drink oil, keep it in the soil.” Members of The Red Nation-Santa Fe had contacted both the hotel management and the Picuris Pueblo government to inform them of their intended presence at the conference. Hotel security tried to stop the group from entering the property but ultimately could only watch as it marched past its two entrances, chanting loudly enough for conference attendees inside to hear. Some attendees came outside while on break to watch and take photos while others stopped to listen to the press conference speakers.

Speakers representing The Red Nation, Halt Holtec, Diné-Pueblo Solidarity, and Frack Off Greater Chaco Coalition explained that the discussion surrounding fracking wastewater has excluded tribal governments and Indigenous communities most impacted by the oil and gas industry; shared about the disproportionate health impacts of fracking-related asthma, cancer, and birth defects on frontline communities; discussed the “self-regulation” of oil and gas companies by their executives and employees who become EPA and DOI officials; and the upcoming public actions to prevent the expansion of fracking through lease sales and oil and gas ordinances. Organizers also announced nine demands created collaboratively with the Frack Off Chaco Coalition and All Pueblo Council of Governors, which can be read here in the event’s press release.

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TRN member Justine Teba (Tesuque Pueblo) leading chants as protestors march past Hotel Santa Fe entrance.

Among the demands is a complete moratorium on new oil and gas leases in New Mexico since the industry is debating either disposing of billions of gallons of water in underground injection wells or contaminating groundwater by reintroducing frack fluid into the hydrologic cycle. Instead, Indigenous communities directly impacted by fracking say no more water or land for fracking and demand that all further discussions of disposal of wastewater include tribal consultation and public input.

The Red Nation and its allied in the Frack Off Greater Chaco Coalition, Pueblo tribal governments, and Diné chapter houses will continue to mobilize against these threats to Indigenous water, land, and peoples. The oil and gas industry will not be able to have private industry meetings nor backroom dealings with government officials without the presence— invited or not— of Indigenous peoples and all those who seek to protect land and water.

There are a number of upcoming actions where the public can intervene in government and industry’s hand-in-hand expansion of fossil fuel projects. Check the Frack Off Chaco Coalition page’s Upcoming Events section for more info. Follow The Red Nation on Facebook (@therednation), Twitter (@The_Red_Nation), and at therednation.org.

12/5: BLM Lease Sale Protest & Action. NM State Office BLM. Santa Fe, NM.

#NoNewLeases #ProtectChacoCanyon #FrackOffChaco #FrackOffNM #WaterIsLife #KeepItInTheSoil #CantDrinkOil