Congress measures conflict over drilling near sacred sites

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) -- Advocates for greater restrictions on oil and natural gas drilling near untrammeled Native American cultural sites in the Southwest are urging Congress to establish better safeguards.

A research trip by a U.S. House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources culminates Monday in a public hearing at the New Mexico Capitol. The committee is exploring the effects of air pollution on ruins held sacred by indigenous communities.

New Mexico's delegation to Washington wants to halt new oil and natural gas lease sales on federal holdings within a 10-mile (16-kilometer) buffer zone around Chaco Culture National Historic Park and its ancient stone structures and avenues.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez says many tribes want a greater area around Chaco protected from industrial incursions.

Oil developers say robust protections already are in place.