Oil and Gas Development Archives


  • November 4th, 2014

    Allege Utah BLM illegally piecemealing oil and gas development

    Contact: Landon Newell, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3991; Devorah Ancel, Sierra Club Environmental Law Program, 415.977.5721

    SALT LAKE CITY – Last Friday, October 31, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and Sierra Club challenged a decision by the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Moab field office to approve a natural gas gathering pipeline system on public lands close to Dead Horse Point State Park and the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park.  These lands are remarkably scenic, are visited by hundreds of thousands of people annually from around the country and the world, and are important to Moab’s tourism economy.

    The gathering pipeline system was proposed by Fidelity Exploration & Production, the primary oil and gas operator in this area. The system can only operate when connected to another pipeline project that BLM approved last year, known as the “Dead Horse Lateral.”  Rather than analyze the environmental impacts of these two projects together, BLM piecemealed its review into separate analyses.  Federal environmental laws prohibit the agency from taking such an approach.  Instead, BLM was required to prepare a comprehensive analysis that considered both pipeline proposals as well as associated development activities.

    Big Flat Pipeline

    “BLM’s decision to consider Fidelity’s gathering pipeline system in isolation, and not take into account the environmental impacts from other projects necessary to make the gathering system work, is a textbook violation of environmental laws,” said Landon Newell, staff attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.  “As a result, BLM significantly underplayed the impacts from swelling oil and gas development in this remarkable landscape.”

    Oil and gas development has significantly expanded over the past five years with dozens of new wells already drilled or planned.  Along with that drilling, Fidelity has conducted intrusive seismic tests and installed other oil field infrastructure.  Heavy truck traffic is now common along Utah State Highway 313 leading to Canyonlands National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park, and the region’s scenic redrock country.

    “The ever-expanding oil and gas extraction in the Big Flat region requires the BLM to conduct a full analysis of the numerous impacts to this iconic landscape,” said Moab resident William Rau.  “I am highly concerned over the safety of the pipeline, oil wells and increased heavy truck traffic, and the dangers they pose to the 500,000 annual visitors to the area.”

    In its third quarter earnings report, issued Monday, November 3, 2014 Fidelity’s parent company the MDU Resources Group announced its intention to sell Fidelity Exploration and Production.

    SUWA and Sierra Club’s challenge was filed with the BLM’s State Office in Salt Lake City.

     

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  • August 5th, 2014

    The Interior Board of Land Appeals has dismissed an appeal brought by the Western Energy Alliance and a small oil and gas company which challenged BLM’s decision not to offer certain wilderness character and culturally significant parcels in the San Rafael Swell for lease at the November 2013 oil and gas lease sale.

    San Rafael Swell Rally

    A woman protests proposed oil and gas leases during a rally in front of the BLM’s state offices September 16, 2013.

    “We’re pleased that industry’s appeal has been rejected,” said Stephen Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “BLM made the right decision not to offer these wild and culturally rich public lands in the Utah’s remarkable San Rafael Swell for oil and gas leasing and development.”

    Last year the BLM proposed to sell 57 oil and gas leases primarily located in Utah’s stunning San Rafael Swell. The leases would have green lighted development on more than 80,000 acres of proposed wilderness, the vast majority of which the BLM itself acknowledges are wilderness caliber landscapes. The leases would have also authorized surface activities in a culturally rich landscape and over the objections of The Hopi Tribe. Hundreds of people wrote and emailed the BLM asking them to “think first, and lease later.” More than 150 people rallied at BLM’s state headquarters in Salt Lake City and delivered this message personally. BLM ultimately withdrew these parcels from sale.

    Shortly thereafter an oil and gas trade group, the Western Energy Alliance, filed an appeal with the Interior Department seeking to overturn the BLM’s decision not to offer these leases. They were joined by a small oil and gas company who had hoped to buy some of these leases. The gist of their appeal was that because BLM initially made the wrong decision to offer these leases, it was required to do so no matter what kind of information the agency learned about the threats that development would pose to fragile cultural sites, threatened species, etc. In other words, industry pushed for the “good old days” of “lease first and think later.” The Interior appeals board flatly rejected these arguments and dismissed the appeal.

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  • July 25th, 2014

    SUWA is working with the Obama administration to bring balance back to public land management through tools like master leasing plans (MLPs), which take a closer look at which lands should be off-limits to new oil and gas leasing and development (and which should remain open to such activities).

    Currently, the BLM is preparing a Moab MLP that covers nearly 850,000 acres. Learn more about master leasing plans in this video from the Equal Ground Coalition:

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  • May 20th, 2014

    The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is moving ahead with the so-called Moab Master Leasing Plan (Moab MLP). This plan will determine what areas are available for oil, gas and potash leases and permits on large swaths of public land close to Canyonlands and Arches National Parks. It also affects many outstanding proposed wilderness areas including Labyrinth Canyon, Fisher Towers and Harts Point/Shay Mountain.

    The BLM has released three preliminary alternatives of the Moab MLP: Alternatives B1, B2 and C. There are maps and comparisons of these alternatives on the BLM’s website.

    The agency is accepting public comment through May 28 on the alternatives. There is no better time for public comment to influence the direction of this critically important plan!

    We strongly encourage you to support Alternative C, which would protect the most proposed wilderness from leasing and development.

    Here are some points to make in your comments:

    • BLM should identify Alternative C as the agency preferred alternative. This alternative will give the most protection to lands proposed for wilderness in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act. BLM’s Alternative C would either close these lands to new oil and gas leasing or permit leasing only with stringent “no surface occupancy” restrictions. Alternative C would also close the Moab MLP planning area to new potash leasing and applications.
    • BLM should modify Alternative C to close all of Harts Point and Shay Mountain proposed wilderness areas from new oil and gas leasing.
    • BLM should modify Alternative C to ensure that dark night skies and air quality at Arches National Park are fully protected. Public lands north of the park should only be available for leasing with stringent “no surface occupancy” restrictions or with strict stipulations that protect those resources.
    • Remind BLM that in its forthcoming environmental study it should fully analyze and consider the impacts from oil, gas and potash leasing, permitting, and development on Arches and Canyonlands National Parks – including night skies, air quality, and water quality.

    Click here to see a map of the lands that will be affected by the Moab MLP. And click here to review several BLM-prepared reports and studies about oil, gas and potash potential in the Moab MLP planning area.

    The Moab MLP provides a critical opportunity to correct the BLM’s 2008 Bush-era resource management plans which left hundreds of thousands of acres of wilderness-caliber lands open for oil, gas and potash leasing and development in the Moab area.

    Comments should be mailed by May 28 to:

    Bureau of Land Management, Canyon Country District Office
    Attn: Brent Northrup, Project Manager
    82 East Dogwood
    Moab, UT 84532

    Comments can also be emailed to blm_ut_mb_mlpcomments@blm.gov

    Thank you!

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