The environment and coal development in the San Juan Basin, New Mexico
Gregg R. Bierei
In 1952 when the gas and oil boom came to the San Juan Basin, environmental issues were not a major developmental consideration of the energy producing industries. Now, a little over twenty years later, the entire future of mineral and energy producing endeavors is based on the acquisition of environmental clearances from regulatory agencies. The present energy producing effort in northwest New Mexico to be tested by the rigors of environmental regulation is the development of the Fruitland coals of the San Juan Basin.
This paper is not intended to be a self-styled environmental impact statement but rather it is intended to familiarize the reader with environmental conditions in the San Juan Basin and to show that the basin, in comparison with other coal bearing environments, will exhibit minimal environmental degradation after surface mining. That is to say, on a national scale, the development of the San Juan Basin coal lands presents a high ratio of environmental benefits compared with environmental liabilities. The effects on renewable and non-renewable resources altered by energy development should be beneficial in terms of biological productivity and scientific information.
In describing the environmental setting of the area, the San Juan Basin illustrates a gradient or ecocline of environmental conditions along an imaginary line bisecting the basin in a northeast direction. The basin can be categorized into several community types by analyzing varying environmental conditions along this line which is depicted on Figure 1. Line A-B, shown as a surface cross-section on Figure 2, traverses the major surface features and habitats of the basin, and crosses the area between Dulce and Chaco Canyon, New Mexico.
- Bierei, Gregg R., 1977, The environment and coal development in the San Juan Basin, New Mexico, in: San Juan Basin III, Fassett, J. E.; James, H. L.; Hodgson, Helen E., New Mexico Geological Society, Guidebook, 28th Field Conference, pp. 77-82.