Steve Bloch, Author at Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance - Page 6 of 6


  • 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!

  • March 14th, 2011

    Last Friday afternoon the “Congressional Western Caucus” – a group of Republican lawmakers from the west (or who are “western” in spirit) – issued a press release attacking the Obama administration’s energy policies, misleadingly linking the current high price of gas at the pump with federal oil and gas leasing and development policies.  The clear intimation is that if we only leased and drilled more, gas prices would come down.  If only these sorts of claims were true.

    Fact of the matter is, there are tens of millions of acres of BLM managed lands across the west that are currently under lease, but not in development by oil and gas companies.  In Utah alone, there are 4.99 million acres of BLM land in Utah under lease – but only 1.09 million acres in production (per BLM FY 09 figures).

    • How much oil and gas are we talking about in Utah? According to BP’s 2009 statistical review of world energy, the U.S. has 2.4.% of the world’s proved oil reserves and 3.6% of the world’s proved natural gas reserves.  According to the Energy Information Administration, Utah holds 1.2% of the nation’s proved oil and 2.7% of the nation’s proved natural gas.
    • Add to the mix a 2010 analysis which shows that technically recoverable undiscovered resources below proposed BLM wilderness in Utah amounts to less than 4 weeks of natural gas and 1 week of oil (at 2010 national consumption rates).  These figures are optimistic because they do not take into account the cost of recovering the resource.
    • Explained another way – drilling beneath all the proposed wilderness on Utah BLM lands won’t make a difference in terms of national energy prices or the price that Americans pay at the pump for a gallon as gas.

    In the Western Caucus’s press release, Rep. Bishop complained that the administration “continue[s] to perpetuate misinformation about their record on oil and gas production, one thing remains very clear-there is an abundant supply of domestic oil and gas resources that remain inaccessible and therefore unutilized.”  The facts speak for themselves.

    In Utah, 2010 drilling rates (975 wells started or “spudded”) in Utah were higher than any year between 2001-2005.

    Also, the number of drill rigs in Utah and other western states has continued to rise.  As of last Friday there were 31 rigs operating in Utah; at this time in 2010 there were 25 rigs – and in July of 2009 there were 16.

    All the while, Secretary Salazar has worked to bring balance back to public lands management including reforming the oil and gas leasing process, issuing a Secretarial Order which established the BLM’s “Wild Lands” policy, and promoting renewable energy projects to wean our nation off fossil fuels.

    At their core, these policies recognize that it is possible to have a strong domestic energy program, while at the same time protecting our nation’s wilderness landscapes.

    The “westerners” in the Western Caucus do us all a disservice by promoting a false dichotomy of “drill everywhere” or pay high prices at pump.  It’s just not that simple.

  • December 16th, 2010
    Gasco development site
    Proposed Desolation Canyon wilderness, photo by Ray Bloxham

    In what can only be called “shockingly disappointing,” the Utah Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is promoting a private company’s plan to develop the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness and destroy thousands of acres.  We would have expected as much during the last administration, and indeed that’s when this company – Gasco – initially proposed its full field development plans.  After an initial flurry in 2006, the project seemed to dry up and go away.  Imagine our surprise this past October when the Utah BLM unveiled a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) with an “agency preferred alternative” identical to the company’s proposed action – one that would authorize nearly 1,500 new natural gas wells including 222 wells in the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness.

    The Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness is the largest roadless complex in the lower 48 states.  Centered around the Desolation Canyon stretch of the Green River, the area’s spectacular solitude and endless vistas are simply awe inspiring.  Sadly, this remarkable place is once again in the crosshairs for destruction. Please help protect this amazing landscape by sending a letter to the BLM today, asking them to support an alternative that would fully protect this special place from development.

    While the Gasco EIS analyzes two alternatives to the company’s proposed action — both of which would mean no drilling in the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness along with greater protections for the Green River, big game, and nearby Nine Mile Canyon — the BLM still found a way to support the company’s plans to drill in all these sensitive places.

    You may have also heard in the news that last year eastern Utah experienced wintertime ozone levels as bad as any place in the country.  According to Gasco’s own figures, this project will make things worse by adding to those unsafe pollution levels.  Not a good idea.

    Please let the Utah BLM know that you want to see protection of the Desolation Canyon Wilderness.

  • July 2nd, 2010

    Finally!  Utah State Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director and Bush administration holdover, Selma Sierra, has been “reassigned” to head the BLM’s Eastern States office.  This announcement has been a long time coming and is a welcome one to supporters of America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.

    During her tenure in Utah, Sierra effectively carried out the Bush administration’s mission to prioritize oil and gas
    development and off-road vehicle use over all other uses of the public lands. Her most damning legacy is the completion of six unbalanced resource management plans and off-road vehicle travel plans.  These plans, rushed to completion in late 2008, attempted to cement the Bush legacy for decades to come.  Sierra was also responsible for the Utah BLM’s ‘Christmas/We’re Going Out of Business’ oil and gas lease sale in December 2008.  This sale drew nationwide attention and rebuke for its attempt to auction off leases on the doorstep of national parks and amazing wilderness and culturally significant areas, over the objections of the National Park Service and others.  The upside of that debacle is that agency reports following the sale provided the foundation for Secretary Salazar’s onshore oil and gas leasing reforms that—if implemented—will provide a more balanced approach to how the agency sells leases.

    Replacing Sierra is Juan Palma, a land manager hailing from Nevada and Oregon.  Palma has served as field office manager of BLM’s Las Vegas and Vale, Oregon, offices, as well as executive director of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.  Most recently, Palma served as the BLM’s Eastern States Director.  He also attended Brigham Young University and has family in Utah.

    We look forward to meeting and working with Palma to tackle some of the state’s most pressing public land
    issues, including: reigning in off-road vehicle use, actively addressing climate change and, most broadly, bringing balance back to how public lands are managed in Utah.  This is a tall order but the lands that we are working to protect demand no less than a full court press throughout Palma’s tenure.

    We’ll keep you posted on our progress.

    Sincerely,

    Steve Bloch
    Attorney
    Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance