Climate Change


  • September 24th, 2020

    Trump administration forced to reverse course; rescind approval for oil/gas wells on public lands located less than a quarter-mile from the national monument; in greater sage-grouse Priority Habitat Management Area

    For Immediate Release 

    Contact: Landon Newell, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801-428-3991, landon@suwa.org 

    Salt Lake City, Utah (September 24, 2020) – The Trump administration recently announced that it has withdrawn its approval of an oil and gas drilling proposal on public lands at the edge of Dinosaur National Monument.

    In September 2019, the Bureau of Land Management approved the so-called Federal Pipeline Unit Wells project and the drilling of two oil and gas wells in a remote area just west of Dinosaur National Monument. The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) appealed the local  manager’s approval of this project to the Bureau’s State Director.

    SUWA argued that the project, if implemented, would adversely impact the adjacent national monument, greater sage-grouse habitat, destroy agency-identified wilderness characteristics, and exacerbate the ongoing climate crisis—impacts the Bureau had failed to fully analyze and disclose. In his decision, the Deputy State Director for Lands and Minerals, the individual charged with overseeing the Bureau’s oil and gas program in Utah, agreed, reversed the local manager’s approval of the project, and ordered the agency to “complete additional [environmental] analysis.” The Deputy State Director’s decision grants a reprieve to one of Utah’s wildest and most remote landscapes. 

    “For years, the Bureau of Land Management has stubbornly refused to analyze and disclose the true costs of oil and gas development in Utah and across the West, even as the agency makes decisions that drive our country and the world into climate chaos,” said Landon Newell, staff attorney with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “The Deputy State Director did the right thing in setting it aside, which should lead to real scrutiny of the proposal.”

    “Piece by piece, well by well, we are working to dismantle decisions made by the Trump administration that threaten everything special about Utah’s wildest public lands and hasten the climate crisis,” said Steve Bloch, legal director with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.  

    The large industrial equipment required for this drilling project, including tanker trucks, drill rigs, and fracking equipment, would have passed within one-fourth of a mile of Dinosaur National Monument. The monument is world-renowned for its remarkable density and diversity of prehistoric sites and artifacts—including petroglyphs and pictographs—and paleontological resources. The National Park Service has recognized the Monument “is one of the darkest places remaining in the United States. Because there is little light pollution here, you can see the stars of our Milky Way galaxy with startling clarity.” The proposed development also would have destroyed greater sage-grouse “priority” habitat—that is, habitat identified by BLM “as having the highest value to maintaining sustainable [greater sage-grouse] populations.” 

    The Deputy State Director’s recent withdrawal of this project is just the latest setback for the Trump administration’s “energy dominance” agenda in Utah and nationally. Earlier this year, based on similar legal shortcomings, the Bureau had to withdraw approval of 175 oil and gas drilling permits, and over the past two years the Bureau on four separate occasions has been forced to pull back oil and gas leasing decisions covering more than 328,000 acres of public lands in Utah. 

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  • August 12th, 2020

    Contact: Steve Bloch, Legal Director, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801-859-1552, steve@suwa.org 

    Anne Hawke, Senior Press Secretary, Natural Resources Defense Council,  646-823-4518, ahawke@nrdc.org 

    Liam Kelly, Communications Manager, National Parks Conservation Association, 213-814-8666, lkelly@npca.org 

    Emily Thompson, Associate Director of Engagement, Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, 202-758-3936, Emily_Thompson@protectnps.org 

    Salt Lake City, UT (August 12, 2020) – The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) Utah state office announced yesterday that it will defer all of the controversial 87,000 acres of oil and gas lease parcels in southeastern Utah’s redrock country that it had proposed to be offered for lease at the September 2020 sale. 

    The BLM’s original proposal for the September lease sale would have opened up lands at the doorstep of Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef National Parks, resulting in widespread public outcry.

    Conservationists praised the BLM’s reversal:

    “The Bureau of Land Management made the right decision to pull back from leasing 87,000 acres of wild public lands in southeast Utah’s redrock country for oil and gas development at the agency’s upcoming September 2020 lease sale,” said Steve Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.  “This particular sale highlights why the odious practice of oil and gas leasing on public needs to come to a halt: the proposed leases in southeast Utah were located on some of Utah’s wildest public lands, lands with at best a trivial amount of oil and gas but where development would scar the land for decades if not permanently; the Bureau failed to properly consult with Native American tribes about impacts of leasing and development to culturally significant resources; local communities had been ignored in the rush to lease; and, developing fossil fuels is fundamentally inconsistent with addressing the looming climate crisis.”

    “At the same time, the Bureau is proceeding with the sale of new leases on more than 27,000 acres of other public lands in Utah, which will only further exacerbate the climate crisis. SUWA and its conservation partners will evaluate the remaining parcels proposed for the September 2020 sale and decide which to formally protest.”

    “This enormous oil and gas drilling plan was a mistake from the very beginning and we’re relieved it has finally been deferred,” said Erika Pollard, associate southwest director at the National Parks Conservation Association. “To open up such enormous swathes of land on the doorstep of some of the country’s most spectacular national parks was irresponsible, and to do so during a pandemic in which tribal communities could not be properly consulted about the plans for their sacred land would have been anti-democratic and disrespectful. 

    “This decision is a huge victory for the many park advocates, tribal communities, outdoors enthusiasts, and local governments and residents who spoke out against these dangerous plans and have now successfully protected some of Utah’s wildest public lands. 

    “This victory will ensure, for now, the spectacular views at Arches and Canyonlands remain unspoiled by industrialization, while protecting the parks from air pollution caused by oil and gas drilling, and preserving the visibility of their famous dark night skies. Plus ensuring the carbon emissions stay in the ground will benefit all national parks that rely upon a healthy climate to thrive.”

    “This is something to celebrate at a time when good news is sparse,” said Alison Kelly, senior attorney for the lands division at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “BLM was poised to hand over prized public lands to polluters without a meaningful process to engage the public.  Its decision to defer this massive lease sale is a win for the community, good for the recreation and tourism industries, and a recognition that these lands generate economic value that doesn’t depend on dirty fossil fuels.”  

    “We are relieved that the Bureau of Land Management has made the decision to defer lease sales that would have greatly impacted Utah’s national parks,” said Phil Francis, Chair of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks. “Oil and gas leases should not be permitted where they will impact resources at America’s special places. 

    “We are grateful to all of the park advocates, tribal communities, partners, and members of the public who raised their voices in protest. While we must continue to be vigilant in the fight to protect our national parks, today we celebrate the victory.” 

     Additional Resources:

    Map of the original BLM September lease sale proposal.

    Photographs of lands originally proposed for lease (use with attribution permitted).

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    Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its nearly 1.4 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.

    NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org.

    The mission of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance is the preservation of the outstanding wilderness at the heart of the Colorado Plateau, and the management of these lands in their natural state for the benefit of all Americans. SUWA promotes local and national recognition of the region’s unique wilderness character through research and public education; supports both administrative and legislative initiatives to permanently protect the Colorado Plateau wild places within the National Wilderness Preservation System, or by other protective designations where appropriate; builds support for such initiatives on both the local and national level; and provides leadership within the conservation movement through uncompromising advocacy for wilderness preservation. www.suwa.org

    The Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks represents over 1,800 current, former, and retired employees and volunteers of the National Park Service, with over 40,000 collective years of stewardship of America’s most precious natural and cultural resources. Recognized as the Voices of Experience, the Coalition educates, speaks, and acts for the preservation and protection of the National Park System, and mission-related programs of the National Park Service. More information can be found at https://protectnps.org

     

  • June 15th, 2020

    Speak out against climate-damaging oil and gas leasing  near Arches and Canyonlands National Park

     The Trump administration is proposing to sacrifice our national parks and exacerbate the climate crisis by leasing a massive swath of treasured public lands near Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef National Parks for oil and gas development.  On June 9, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released an environmental assessment purportedly analyzing the effects of such leasing.  Watch for SUWA alerts about writing Utah Governor Herbert, and later about submitting comments to the BLM.   

    But there is something as or more effective that you can do – bring attention to this outrageous plan by writing a letter-to-the-editor or guest editorial (OpEd) to your local paper.  This issue is of national interest so papers across the country should be receptive to your commentary.

    Background:

    Under the Trump administration’s “energy dominance” agenda the BLM has been on a rampage, leasing public wild lands in Utah and across the West for oil and gas development regardless of destructive impacts to the climate crisis, lands sacred to Native Americans, national parks, wilderness, recreation, wildlife and community watersheds.  In a particularly egregious plan, BLM now proposes to sell 77 oil and gas leases on 114,000 acres of public lands near Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef National Parks and the Obama-designated Bears Ears National Monument at a September 2020 sale. 

    These lands are some of the wildest, most scenic, and culturally significant public lands in Utah, and are popular with outdoor enthusiasts who use them for hiking, camping, mountain biking, climbing and more.  Development on many of the leases would be visible from the national parks and Bears Ears National Monument as well as Dead Horse Point state park.

    SUWA and other groups have been challenging oil and gas leasing on public lands in the courts with some at least temporary success.  But if we are to change the BLM’s oil and gas leasing policies (under a new administration) it is essential we also win in the court of public opinion – and you can help do that by writing to your local news publications!

    Some messaging point you could make:

    • The Trump administration is proposing to blanket a massive swath of land near Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef National Parks, as well as Bears Ears National Monument, with oil and gas drilling leases.  Ultimately, this will replace the area’s unspoiled red rock canyons, expansive vistas, clean air, quiet stillness, intense night skies, and sense of wildness with the sights and sounds of industrial development.  
    • The future development of these leases will unavoidably and unnecessarily exacerbate the climate crisis.  We can not afford to have any more land opened to oil and gas development, especially when renewable energy sources now offer a real alternative.
    • Absurdly, this rush to lease continues even though the world is awash in excess oil and gas, as evidenced by the fact that the price per barrel of oil has dropped dramatically, even dipping below zero at one point!  
    • Even more ludicrous, BLM is offering new leases while at the same time reducing the royalty rates oil and gas companies pay on existing leases in the same area.  This “royalty relief” comes in response to oil and gas company claims that they can’t afford to develop existing leases economically at this time.  
    • And remember, leased land is tied up for decades as once leases are issued, oil companies hold a “right” to develop that lasts at least ten years!  
    • Given all this, how can anyone consider BLM’s plan to sacrifice iconic western landscapes and our planet’s health to oil and gas leasing anything but outrageous and unconscionable?
    • The September 2020 Utah oil and gas lease sale must be halted and the “energy dominance” policy reformed.
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    For more information see:

    Published articles that you can respond to:

    Other good places where you can submit LTEs/OpEds: Even if your local/regional paper has not run a news story on the September 2020 oil and gas leasing sale, you can still submit a LTE.  In fact, that could even inspire them to cover the issue. See finding “hooks” guidance below!  Use this list to find papers in your region – see tabs at bottom!

    Remember to check the word limit for your paper.  LTE word limits are often 200-250 words and papers are often strict about it. Guest Editorials (OpEds) can usually be a lot longer but OpEds are more challenging to place. 

    Finding “hooks” for your LTE/Guest Editorial:  The best hook arises if your local/regional paper publishes an article on this lease sale and you write a LTE referencing that article. But if our paper does not cover the sale, there are a lot of other ways you might make your letter/editorial timely and relevant to your local paper.  You could use any article on the climate crisis, Trump’s environmental record, or national parks and public lands, for example, as a springboard or pivot to your commentary.  You could even use the Covid-19 pandemic by leading with a sentence that talks about how you and many Americans are dreaming of the day when they can again visit safely our national parks and public lands – but say they might find them diminished if current oil and gas leasing policies persist. 

    Trust your own voice: Remember, the most compelling LTEs are written in your own voice, bringing in a personal experience or relationship to the issue as well as making broader messaging points. Trust that your letter will be more interesting if you write from your heart and interweave your own story.

    If you’d like some help:  We are happy to give your draft a read for accuracy or help with editing suggestions.  Just email terri@suwa.org with URGENT in the subject line!

    Send us a copy of your submitted and/or published LTE! terri@suwa.org 

    Share your published LTE/OpEd on social media!  Suggested hashtags: #ProtectWildUtah, #StandwithBearsEars  #publiclands #wilderness #utah

  • June 3rd, 2020

    The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is currently accepting public comments on a proposed coal mine expansion on the western slope of the Book Cliffs in eastern Utah.

    The proposal would allow Utah American Energy—a wholly owned subsidiary of Murray Energy Corp., the nation’s largest (and now bankrupt) coal company—to expand the Lila Canyon mine into an additional 1,272 acres of public land.

    It would also allow the company to mine an additional 9.1 million tons of coal, extending the life of the mine by approximately 3 years—with the accompanying increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

    The BLM’s approval of the coal mine proposal will push us further down the path to climate disaster. In a recent study, the United States Geological Survey concluded that fossil fuels extracted from public lands, including coal, account for nearly 24 percent of the nation’s annual carbon dioxide emissions.

    Tell the BLM to stop all new coal development on public lands.

    The science is clear: climate change requires immediate action. The BLM must put a halt to all new coal leasing and development on public lands if there is any chance of avoiding the most severe impacts of a changing climate.

    However, with this proposal the Trump administration’s BLM is barreling in the opposite direction, digging us into a deeper hole.

    Click here to submit your comments by June 8th.

    The world does not need more coal. The climate crisis has already arrived, threatening humanity and the environment upon which all life relies. We must act now to ensure that current and future generations not only survive, but thrive in this rapidly changing world.

    Thank you for taking action.

  • April 16th, 2020
    2020EarthDayClimateStrike

    Art by Ogden Climate Strike Organizer, Raquel Juarez

    Spatial distancing doesn’t mean that we can’t engage in collective action! On the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, we hope you will join us online for three days of workshops, storytelling, performances, and action.

    The Utah-focused digital events will be bookended by special keynotes featuring SUWA board members and veteran wild land protectors Terry Tempest Williams and Mark Maryboy.

    RSVP to their keynotes HERE.


    These are only three of nine local at-home actions, keynotes, and webinars being held in coordination with the national Earth Day Live themes: Strike, Divest, Vote. You can see the full three-day schedule on UtahEarthDay.org. Please join us for the keynotes this coming Earth Week!

    See you on the digital picket line,
    GRoots2019
    SUWA Grassroots Organizers