Oil and Gas Development Archives

  • Fisher Towers, La Sal Mountains beyond, Near Moab, Utah
    July 20th, 2016

    Obama Administration plan correctly prioritizes protection of Utah’s stunning redrock lands, provides certainty to all stakeholders about future mineral development

    Nada Culver, The Wilderness Society, 303.225.4635
    Stephen Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3981
    Anne Hawke, Natural Resources Defense Council, 202-329-1463

    Salt Lake City (July 20, 2016):  Today the Bureau of Land Management released a long awaited plan that will guide energy and mineral development away from sensitive lands near Canyonlands and Arches National Parks and many outstanding proposed wilderness areas that are too wild to drill. The BLM’s Moab Master Leasing Plan will help the agency better manage oil and gas development and potash mining to avoid conflict with other resources on more than 785,000 acres of public land in eastern Utah.

    “Simply put, the Moab Master Leasing Plan is a significant step toward better BLM management of oil, gas and other minerals in the heart of Utah’s red rock country,” said Stephen Bloch, Legal Director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “The MLP gives industry certainty where leasing and ultimately development can take place and also makes plain the terms and conditions for those activities.  Likewise, the public and local communities now know that many of southeastern Utah’s stunningly beautiful canyons and mesas won’t be marred by the sight and sound of drill rigs and pump jacks. BLM’s hard work on this plan has definitely paid off.”

    Fisher Towers, La Sal Mountains beyond, Near Moab, Utah

    The Moab MLP protects the Fisher Towers proposed wilderness from the sights and sounds of oil and gas development. Copyright Tom Till

    Increased energy development in eastern Utah has fueled air pollution that threatens human health and internationally acclaimed dark night skies, as well as recreation opportunities that contribute millions of dollars to the state’s economy each year.  Also, the dramatic effects of climate change are becoming increasingly evident in southeast Utah’s already arid Colorado Plateau region. With more than 90% of BLM lands and minerals available nationally for leasing it has been incumbent on BLM to find better ways to safeguard wild places and other values of public lands.  Master leasing plans fit that need.

    “Some of our most treasured places are at risk from drilling and speculative leasing.” said Nada Culver, senior director for agency policy at The Wilderness Society. “Master leasing plans, like the Moab MLP, are the right way to manage oil and gas on our public lands – with a vision of where energy development can be managed and where other values, like wilderness and recreation, need to be protected. Moving forward with the Moab MLP and others around the West in Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming, is modernizing the way we do business on our public lands.”

    Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA

    Under the Moab MLP, surface disturbing activities will be prohibited in the Goldbar Canyon proposed wilderness. Photo credit: Ray Bloxham/SUWA

    “This plan ensures a more deliberate process that will better protect vulnerable wilderness lands from wanton exploitation. Many such areas in southeast Utah are too precious and too special to be leased and developed without adequate safeguards.” observed Sharon Buccino, Director of the Land and Wildlife program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

    The Moab MLP takes the following specific steps:

    • Protects wild places that are currently under threat from oil and gas leasing and development, including Fisher Towers, Porcupine Rim, Six-Shooter Peaks and Goldbar Canyon.  These landscapes would either be closed to future leasing or subject to “no surface occupancy” stipulations that prohibit physical development on the lease.
    • Provide strong protections for Arches and Canyonlands National Parks’ classic southern Utah vistas, dark night skies and clean water.
    • Require that the majority of all future leases issued in the MLP area be subject to common sense ‘controlled surface use’ stipulations. These are essential to give both industry and the public certainty about the ground rules for future development.

    The plan does not:

    • Prohibit all oil and gas leasing and development in the planning area. Instead, leasing and development may proceed in a more thoughtful and deliberate manner.
    • Prohibit all potash leasing and development in the planning area.  Rather, the Plan establishes three ‘potash leasing areas’ where these activities are concentrated.

    BLM continues to work on another Master Leasing Plan efforts in Utah to better balance development and conservation in the San Rafael Desert, located immediately west of the Moab Master Leasing Plan.  BLM also continues to make progress on other MLPs in places like Western Colorado and Southwestern Wyoming.

    Additional resource: Photos of lands protected by the Moab Master Leasing Plan.

  • San Rafael River (James Kay)
  • San Rafeal River, SR Desert (Ray Bloxham
    May 17th, 2016

    With the hopes of striking a balance between oil and gas development and the conservation of archaeological sites, redrock canyons, and Utah’s richest bee habitat, the Utah State Office for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) kicked-off the San Rafael Desert Master Leasing Plan (MLP) process today.

    Read More »
  • Enefit Uinta Basin Oil Shale/Tar Sands Map (Grand Canyon Trust)
    April 6th, 2016

    The Bureau of Land Management announced this week that it is moving toward allowing dirty oil shale development that could be a double whammy for the environment, unleashing nearly a half a billion tons of greenhouse gases and consuming vast amounts Colorado River basin water.

    Read More »
  • A well site near Moab, Utah. Copyright Liz Thomas/SUWA.
    March 8th, 2016

    Thanks largely to fossil fuel development and consumption and the changes they are bringing to the planet’s climate, Utah – and particularly Utah’s canyon country – is predicted to be hotter and drier than ever. In fact, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the American Southwest, including Utah, will be ground zero for some of climate change’s most significant impacts in North America.

    SUWA has long championed protecting America’s redrock wilderness – more than 9 million acres of outstanding BLM-managed public lands in Utah – from fossil fuel leasing and development ranging from oil, gas and coal to oil shale and tar sands. In fact, SUWA was working to “Keep It in the Ground” long before this concept had a hashtag, a Facebook page, or even a World Wide Web to promote it.

    Our work to limit fossil fuel leasing and development is consistent with SUWA’s mission to protect Utah’s wildest places for current and future generations to enjoy. It has the added benefit of helping maintain the many ecological and climate-buffering functions provided by wild public lands. This work has perhaps never been more relevant than in today’s rapidly changing world.

    Drill pads in the Uintah Basin, Utah. Copyright Lin Alder

    Oil and gas development blanketing the Uintah Basin. Copyright Lin Alder.

    No time to lose
    Recent news headlines on climate change have been particularly dire: “hottest year in historical record,” “2015 was hottest year on record, by a stunning margin” and “Utah’s third warmest year.” The dramatic changes we are seeing in the Earth’s climate appear to be happening in a “nonlinear” fashion, meaning that the changes are happening faster and with more disastrous effects than were previously predicted.

    Fortunately, the Obama administration is taking a series of wide ranging, if overdue, steps to tackle these issues. Most recently, the Interior Department issued a moratorium on new coal leasing for Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Forest Service lands and released proposed regulations to reduce methane emissions from existing oil and gas wells. These are significant steps towards reducing America’s greenhouse gas emissions and its dependence on the dirtiest fossil fuels — but more work needs to be done!

    A well site near Moab, Utah. Copyright Liz Thomas/SUWA.

    A well site on public land near Moab, Utah. Copyright Liz Thomas/SUWA.

    We believe one of the next logical steps is to extend the administration’s coal leasing moratorium to new oil and gas leasing on BLM and Forest Service managed lands. Such a moratorium would allow the administration to make the same clear-eyed assessment about whether its current oil and gas leasing program is consistent with the steps our country must take to address climate change.

    Because Utah, like all western states, has millions of federal lands already under lease, but not in production, such a moratorium would not solve all of our problems. Like the coal moratorium, production from and development of existing leases would not be limited by such an action. SUWA will continue to keep a watchful eye on those potential projects.

    And because the impacts of leasing, developing and burning fossil fuels affect Utah’s redrock wilderness even if they take place outside of the wilderness proposal, you can expect to see us taking a more active role in working to defeat these proposals no matter where they occur.

    The confluence between “Keeping It in the Ground” and protecting America’s redrock wilderness is a topic we plan to explore further in a series of blog posts over the coming months, so please stay tuned.

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