Oil and Gas Development Archives


  • January 31st, 2019

    SOUTHERN UTAH WILDERNESS ALLIANCE – THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY –
    SIERRA CLUB

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    Contact: Stephen Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3981

    Nada Culver, The Wilderness Society, 303.225.4635

    Over the course of 12 months, the Trump Administration has systematically leased
    the Four Corners region, making the area Ground Zero for its “Energy Dominance” agenda

    Salt Lake City, UT (January 31, 2019) – Less than three business days after the end of the partial government shutdown, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced plans to sell more than 217,000 acres of oil and gas leases on federal public lands throughout Utah during its upcoming March 2019 lease sale. The BLM plans to auction off 156 oil and gas lease parcels, including parcels in Utah’s culturally significant Four Corners region near Bears Ears, Hovenweep and Canyons of the Ancients national monuments, as well as the wild and remote Book Cliffs.

    Utah BLM staff worked during the federal government shutdown to prepare for this lease sale. Taken together, the parcels cut a wide swath through Utah’s cultural, hunting, and wilderness legacy. Photographs of places proposed for upcoming sale are available here.

    Throughout the course of three lease sales conducted over the past 12 months, the Trump administration’s BLM has systematically leased more than 112,000 acres in southeast Utah’s Four Corners Region, blanketing one of the densest accumulations of cultural resources in the country with oil and gas leases and setting the stage for the area to be drilled and developed.  A map illustrating the BLM’s all-out assault on this fragile region is here.

    “The BLM is placing the final pieces to complete its puzzle of oil and gas leases near Bears Ears, Hovenweep and Canyons of the Ancients national monuments,” said Landon Newell, staff attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.  “The BLM has done so without considering the big-picture impacts to these national monuments and surrounding landscapes, including impacts to dark night skies, air quality, and the region’s rich cultural heritage.”

    The National Park Service, the BLM’s sister agency in the Interior Department, has written the BLM on two occasions – before the March 2018 and now the March 2019 lease sale – urging the BLM to not lease parcels on the doorstep of Hovenweep National Monument. The BLM has not deferred any parcels in response to these concerns.

    In response to the BLM’s notice of the March 2019 sale, the All Pueblo Council of Governors and Pueblo of Acoma have demanded that the BLM defer selling leases in the area until the agency conducts a thorough cultural resources review of the region.  The Hopi Tribe has previously written the BLM demanding the same review. The BLM has not deferred any parcels in response to these concerns, either.

    “The Trump administration is following a well-worn path of ‘leasing first, and thinking later,’ the same approach taken by the George W. Bush administration’s ‘drill here, drill now’ policies,” said Stephen Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.  “This approach has riddled Utah’s wild and culturally significant public lands with leases, which should come as no surprise given that it’s the same Bush political appointee – David Bernhardt – now steering the Trump Interior Department.”

    In addition to the sell-off of wilderness-caliber and culturally rich lands, the BLM plans to lease nearly 100 parcels in eastern Utah’s Uinta Basin and Book Cliffs region, which the Environmental Protection Agency recently designated in “nonattainment” of national air quality standards for ozone. The Uinta Basin suffers from some of the worst air quality in the nation, largely due to the BLM’s ineffective and lax management of oil and gas leasing and development. Rather than take steps to bring the Uinta Basin into compliance with air quality standards, the BLM is rushing forward faster than ever to sell off public lands in the Basin for exploration and development. The Book Cliffs are a wild and remote region prized by hunters and guides for trophy big game.

    “With BLM staff already stretched thin, it’s hard to believe that the six days the government was open since comments were submitted on this lease sale could be sufficient to address the many risks to wildlife, wilderness and archaeological resources on 217,000 acres of public lands,” said Nada Culver, Director of The Wilderness Society’s BLM Action Center. “And the fact that all of these parcels are still in the sale raises some red flags.”

    “How many times can we say this? This is another egregious example of short term profit margins being put ahead of invaluable cultural and archeological resources – with areas near Bears Ears, Hovenweep, and Canyons of the Ancient national monuments being put back on the chopping block for the third time in a year,” said Utah Sierra Club Director Ashley Soltysiak. “Once lost, these incredible places are gone forever.”

    There is no need to sacrifice Utah’s remarkable wild places for oil and gas leasing and development. Utah, like most western states, has a surplus of BLM-managed lands that are under lease but not in development,with only forty-five percent of its total leased land in development.  There were approximately 2.5 million acres of federal public land in Utah leased for oil and gas development (see here and follow hyperlink for Table 2, Acreage in Effect) at the close of BLM’s 2017 fiscal year – the last year in which BLM has provided oil and gas statistics. At the same time, oil and gas companies had less than 1.2 million acres of those leased lands in production (here – follow hyperlink for Table 6, Acreage of Producing Leases).

    More information regarding BLM’s March 2019 lease sale is available here.

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  • January 29th, 2019

    For Immediate Release
    January 29, 2019

    Contact: Stephen Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3981

    Salt Lake City — In a remarkable about-face following a protest from the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) announced yesterday that it had dropped its proposal to sell twelve oil and gas leases totaling roughly 5,700 acres located on SITLA-managed lands within the original boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument to the highest bidder.

    While these SITLA-managed lands contain the same irreplaceable cultural and paleontological resources that are found on adjacent federal public lands, they are not formally part of the monument.  Two of the proposed leases were also immediately adjacent to Canyonlands National Park and several proposed leases were visible from the popular Anticline and Needles overlooks.  A number of the leases were also in the Lockhart Basin proposed wilderness area.

    Last Friday, January 25th, SUWA protested SITLA’s proposed leasing decision and urged the agency to defer leasing until the federal litigation challenging Trump’s unlawful rollback of the monument has been resolved.

    “SITLA made the right decision to withdraw the twelve protested oil and gas leases on SITLA-managed lands within the original boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument,” said Stephen Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.  “We hope that SITLA will continue to defer leasing in Bears Ears until the federal litigation challenging President Trump’s unlawful attack on the monument has been resolved and the agency can pursue a land exchange that benefits Utah’s schoolchildren and protects irreplaceable cultural and paleontological resources.”

    Four of the twelve protested parcels received bids but SITLA announced yesterday that it had withdrawn the parcels from sale and would refund the high bidder monies.  SITLA also announced that none of the twelve parcels would be available for non-competitive leasing for the next several months, as is usually the case.

    On December 4, 2017, President Trump purported to dismantle Bears Ears National Monument and designate two much smaller monuments, Indian Creek and Shash Jaa’. There are currently three lawsuits pending in federal district court for the District of Columbia challenging President Trump’s unlawful action; the lead case is Hopi Tribe et al. v. Trump.  SUWA is a plaintiff in one of the other lawsuits, a case referred to as Natural Resources Defense Council et al. v. Trump.  Each of these lawsuits asks a federal judge to declare unlawful and invalidate President Trump’s December 4, 2017 proclamation. Such a decision would have significant bearing on access to any SITLA oil and gas lease sold within the original boundaries of Bears Ears, access which is subject to federal regulation and control.  SITLA’s solicitation for this lease sale contained no mention of the fact that the leases are within the original boundaries of Bears Ears, nor did it advise potential bidders that Trump’s unlawful action is the subject of three lawsuits.

    The proposed sale of these leases was also contrary to SITLA’s mandate to manage its lands for both short and long term economic gain and, when necessary, to consider a land exchange which would preserve unique non-economic values (such as the cultural, paleontological, and biological resources in Bears Ears).  This is precisely why President Obama’s proclamation establishing Bears Ears National Monument called on the Secretary of the Interior to explore a land exchange with the State of Utah for all SITLA-managed lands in the monument.  Unfortunately, the State refused to pursue such an exchange.  SITLA’s mission is “[a]dministering trust lands prudently and profitably for Utah’s schoolchildren and other trust beneficiaries.”

    Resources for reporters:

    Photos of the leases are available for media use here.

    A map of the twelve leases is available here.

    Learn about the Five Native American Tribes working to protect Bears Ears.

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  • January 25th, 2019

    For Immediate Release
    January 25, 2019

    Contact: Stephen Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3981

    Salt Lake City — In a remarkably shortsighted decision, the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) is proposing to sell twelve oil and gas leases totaling roughly 5,700 acres located on SITLA-managed lands within the original boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument to the highest bidder. While these leases contain the same irreplaceable cultural and paleontological resources that are found on adjacent federal public lands, the SITLA lands underlying the leases are not formally part of the monument.  Two of the proposed leases are also immediately adjacent to Canyonlands National Park and several proposed leases are visible from the popular Anticline and Needles overlooks.

    Today, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) protested SITLA’s proposed leasing decision and urged the agency to defer leasing until the federal litigation challenging Trump’s unlawful rollback of the monument has been resolved.

    “We are calling on SITLA Director David Ure not to sell any oil and gas leases on SITLA-managed lands within the original boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument until the federal litigation challenging President Trump’s unlawful attack on the monument has been resolved and the agency can pursue a land exchange that benefits Utah’s schoolchildren and protects irreplaceable cultural and paleontological resources,” said Stephen Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.  “At a bare minimum, SITLA should not sell any of the proposed twelve leases until it makes clear to potential lessees that the twelve leases are within the original boundaries of Bears Ears, that Trump’s decision attacking the monument has been challenged in court, and that access to any leases will be highly controversial.”

    On December 4, 2017, President Trump purported to dismantle Bears Ears National Monument and designate two much smaller monuments, Indian Creek and Shash Jaa’. There are currently three lawsuits pending in federal district court for the District of Columbia challenging President Trump’s unlawful action; the lead case is Hopi Tribe et al. v. Trump.  SUWA is a plaintiff in one of the other lawsuits, a case referred to as Natural Resources Defense Council et al. v. Trump.  Each of these lawsuits asks a federal judge to declare unlawful and invalidate President Trump’s December 4, 2017 proclamation. Such a decision would have significant bearing on access to any SITLA oil and gas lease sold within the original boundaries of Bears Ears, access which is subject to federal regulation and control.  SITLA’s solicitation for this lease sale contains no mention of the fact that the leases are within the original boundaries of Bears Ears, nor does it advise potential bidders that Trump’s unlawful action is the subject of three lawsuits.

    The proposed sale of these leases also flies in the face of SITLA’s mandate to manage its lands for both short and long term economic gain and, when necessary, to consider a land exchange which would preserve unique non-economic values (such as the cultural, paleontological, and biological resources in Bears Ears).  This is precisely why President Obama’s proclamation establishing Bears Ears National Monument called on the Secretary of the Interior to explore a land exchange with the State of Utah for all SITLA-managed lands in the monument.  Unfortunately, the State refused to pursue such an exchange.  SITLA’s mission is “[a]dministering trust lands prudently and profitably for Utah’s schoolchildren and other trust beneficiaries.”

    Online bidding for the twelve leases closes today at 5pm mountain time.

    Resources for reporters:

    Photos of the leases are available for media use here.

    A map of the twelve leases is available here.

    Learn about the Five Native American Tribes working to protect Bears Ears.

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  • December 11th, 2018

    The Trump administration today offered up more than 150,000 acres of public land in Utah for fossil fuel development, including in the heart of some of the state’s most iconic landscapes. In response, dozens of Utahns gathered at a press conference in the State Capitol Rotunda to raise their voices in protest.

    SUWA Staff Attorney Landon Newell details the latest assault on Utah’s public lands under the Trump administration’s reckless oil and gas leasing program. Copyright Dave Pacheco/SUWA

    The Bureau of Land Management’s online auction offered 105 parcels of public land for oil and gas leasing and development, some within 10 miles of internationally beloved protected areas including Arches and Canyonlands national parks, Bears Ears and Hovenweep national monuments, and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. The sale also threatens public lands with wilderness characteristics.

    SUWA staff attorney Landon Newell explained that “Since December 2017 through its upcoming March 2019 lease sale, the BLM will have offered for oil & gas leasing and development approximately 500 lease parcels, consisting of more than 735,000 acres of public lands in Utah. This is an increase of more than seven-fold from what was offered over a similar time frame by the BLM under the Obama administration.”

    Fossil fuel development in these areas threatens multiple sensitive plants and animals, including the Greater sage-grouse, Black-footed ferret, Mexican spotted owl, White River penstemon and Graham’s beardtongue. It also stands to exacerbate already critical air quality problems in the Uinta Basin and would use tremendous amounts of water even as Utah closes out its driest year in recorded history.

    Adding insult to injury, the BLM is rushing to sell off ever larger tracts of our shared heritage in furtherance of the Trump administration’s ill-conceived “energy dominance” agenda, and the agency has moved to “streamline” its lease sale process by eliminating perceived “roadblocks” to energy development. These so-called roadblocks include, according to the agency, regular environmental review and public participation. As a result, the BLM has sold-off hundreds of thousands of acres of public lands for oil and gas development without fully involving the public or analyzing the impacts of its leasing decisions.

    Westminster College Environmental Justice student Liza Van Dyk speaks about the climate impacts of oil & gas leasing and the importance of listening to younger generations. Copyright Dave Pacheco/SUWA

    Westminster College sophomore Eliza Van Dyk put the lease sale in perspective as she conveyed the feelings of an entire generation. “Oil and gas leasing threatens to shatter our visions for a better world. For every well drilled, they are exacerbating the struggles of people who are already intimately experiencing the pain of climate change. And yet, BLM is leasing our futures without even letting us have a say! The absence of an accessible public comment period in the December lease sale has been a despicable violation of our rights as young people to secure just and livable futures for generations to come.”

    Marc Thomas of the Sierra Club’s Glen Canyon Group added, “These parcels offered for sale are almost always rubberstamped with a ‘finding of no significant impact’ regardless of what treasures they contain, whatever other values they may have, and whether they’ve ever even been inventoried.”

    Marc Thomas, Chair of the Sierra Club Glen Canyon Group, describes the BLM’s broken system and how it fails to recognize that “undeveloped lands are a critical buffer against widespread environmental degradation.” Copyright Dave Pacheco/SUWA

    SUWA believes that this uninformed “lease first, think later” approach to oil and gas leasing and development adopted by the BLM is both a disservice to the American people and unlawful. We intend to challenge the agency’s leasing decisions in court.

  • July 26th, 2018

    203,000 Acres of Remote and Wild Lands Including in the San Rafael Desert and Dirty Devil Regions to be Auctioned Off for Oil and Gas Leasing and Development

    SOUTHERN UTAH WILDERNESS ALLIANCE * NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL * SIERRA CLUB * THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY

    For Immediate Release
    July 26, 2018

    Contact:
    Landon Newell, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3991
    Nada Culver, The Wilderness Society, 303.807.6918
    Carly Ferro, Sierra Club, 801.467.9294 x100
    Anne Hawke, Natural Resources Defense Council, 202.513.6263

    Salt Lake City: Today, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced its plans to offer 109 leases, consisting of 203,321 acres of federal public land, for oil and gas development, including 158,944 acres of public lands in the heart of Utah’s San Rafael Desert and northern Dirty Devil region. BLM’s latest assault on Utah’s wild lands is entirely in lockstep with the Trump administration’s “energy dominance” agenda and will sacrifice some of Utah’s wildest and most remote landscapes in pursuit of this quixotic goal. Photographs of the San Rafael Desert are available here. A map of the parcels up for auction is available here.

    “This is a textbook example of what Trump’s ‘energy dominance’ agenda looks like in Utah, a full-on assault against one of our state’s wildest places” said Stephen Bloch, Legal Director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “The oil and gas industry has been trying to get its hands on this remote, wild corner of Utah’s redrock country for years and we’ve fought them off. They’re not going to get it this time either without a fight.”

    At its September 2018 lease sale, BLM will auction off parcels overlapping (and adjacent to) Highway 24 the main access route to Goblin Valley State Parkas well as parcels less than two miles from the Horseshoe Canyon extension of Canyonlands National Park (and only a few miles farther from the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Canyonlands National Park). The National Park Service has stated that Horseshoe Canyon “contains some of the most significant rock art in North America.” This includes the “Great Gallerya world-renowned panel of well-preserved life-sized figures with intricate designs.

    “BLM’s ‘lease-everything, lease-everywhere’ oil and gas agenda will have significant long-term impacts to Utah’s wild public lands,” said Landon Newell, Staff Attorney with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “The clean air, expansive vistas, quite stillness, and sense of wildness enjoyed in these areas will be lost to the sights and sounds of industrial development including pumpjacks, drill rigs, and natural gas flaring.”

    “BLM is focusing on leasing to the exclusion of all other multiple uses,” said Nada Culver, Senior Counsel and Director of The Wilderness Society’s BLM Action Center. “This process has shown a disturbing lack of concern for the invaluable resources and experiences that will be lost, and hasn’t taken into account input from the American public.”

    “Our public lands are being sold out with little to no concern for the public will or well-being, allowing oil and gas drilling to eat up wild places and encroach further on parks like Canyonlands. This foolhardy rush to mine and drill every possible acre could have irreparable consequences for our health, environment and climate,” said Ashley Soltysiak, Director of Utah Sierra Club.

    In its rush to auction off these remarkable public lands, BLM drastically reduced opportunities for public involvement. The agency allowed for only a fifteen-day public “scoping” period but provided little more than a few maps for public review. BLM provided no opportunity for the public to review or comment on the draft environmental assessments and reduced the public protest period (which started today) from 30 days to 10 days.

    There is no need to sacrifice Utah’s remarkable wild places for oil and gas leasing and development. Utah, like most western states, has a surplus of BLM-managed lands that are under lease but not in development—with only forty-five percent of its total leased land currently in development. There were approximately 2.5 million acres of federal public land in Utah leased for oil and gas development (here—follow hyperlink for Table 2 Acreage in Effect) at the close of BLM’s 2017 fiscal year. At the same time, oil and gas companies had less than 1.2 million acres of those leased lands in production (here—follow hyperlink for Table 6 Acreage of Producing Leases). More information regarding BLM’s September 2018 lease sale is available here.

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