U.S. Senator Joe Biden has made a proposal to ban oil and gas drilling near a burial site near the headquarters of New Mexico’s Navajo tribe in the Pecos River region. According to an agreement signed last month between the tribe and the federal government, the federal government would be allowed to attempt to open up oil and gas drilling wells within a roughly 11-mile zone of land and Navajo sacred sites on federal lands in the area, but drilling rigs would be prohibited “within only one mile of the Navajo President’s headquarters on campus and adjacent sacred sites.” An attempt to open the federal lands to drilling near the federal government headquarters was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008, but the tribe argued the area did not fall within the 11-mile exclusion zone, and thus the federal government violated federal laws on Indian lands.
According to the Times Union, Biden’s proposal would build on an earlier idea to ban drilling off the eastern coastline of New Mexico, which the Times Union notes is located on tribal lands. “The lands surrounding the reservation are an enormous economic engine for the tribe and it is imperative that we protect them,” Biden said. “Although Indian tribes have developed states-of-the-art approaches to managing their natural resources for numerous years, it’s clear to me that our federal regulatory oversight is not adequate. We need reforms.”