Oil and Gas Development Archives


  • February 22nd, 2017

    The Bureau of Land Management’s Saint George field office is preparing to lease for oil and gas development approximately 4,730 acres of federal public land at its upcoming lease sale. Two of the parcels are located less than two miles from Zion National Park along the Kolob Terrace Road, a popular tourist route. Oil and gas development in this area will be visible from the gateway community of Virgin as well as from inside the park, threatening pristine night skies, air quality, and tourism.

    Looking east-southeast across lease parcels 42 and 43 at the outskirts of Zion National Park. Copyright Luke Henry/SUWA

    The BLM’s proposal to lease for oil and gas development on the doorstep of Utah’s most popular national park has been met, unsurprisingly, by strong opposition. Local residents packed the Virgin Community Center to express their concerns during a public meeting with BLM officials, and the Washington County Commission passed a resolution in opposition to the lease sale, noting that Zion National Park is “an internationally recognized showpiece” and “the scenic nature of the area surrounding [the park] contributes to the beauty, economy, and recreational values in Washington County.”

    The BLM is accepting public comments through March 9, 2017. Click here to submit comments now.

  • January 12th, 2017

    Utah’s most popular National Park threatened by sight and sound of development

    For Immediate Release: January 12, 2017

    Contact:
    Landon Newell, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3991
    Cory MacNulty, National Parks Conservation Association, 801.521.0785

    SALT LAKE CITY – National Park advocates, local residents and conservationists are stunned over a just announced proposal by the St. George field office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to offer two oil and gas leases less than two miles from Zion National Park in southwestern Utah.  If developed, the two parcels could easily be seen from Utah’s most popular national park.  The parcels are also next to the rural residential gateway community of Virgin and dissected by the North Creek drainage – a perennial stream which flows into the Virgin River, a designated National Wild and Scenic River.

    DryCreek4

    Proposed lease area in Dry Creek proposed wilderness. Photo copyright Luke Henry/SUWA

    “This is a completely inappropriate location for oil and gas leasing and development,” said Steve Masefield, former Chairman of the Virgin Planning and Zoning Commission and a town resident.  “Drilling on these leases would not only degrade the scenic vistas enjoyed by visitors driving to Zion.  Nearby rural neighborhoods would be devastated by industrial smells, noise, lighting and traffic.  Our water – and the water used by communities downstream – could be polluted.”

    “As a life-time resident and a retired owner of several hospitality and tourist-related businesses in Springdale, Utah, I know how crucial the greater Zion National Park area is to our visitors and local residents alike,” said Louise Excell.  “I cannot imagine how visitors will feel as they discover pump jacks and flares from oil and gas drilling are visible from both inside and outside the park.  Not only will the sight be jarring for visitors and residents, but other important natural resources and quality of life will be affected, including diminished air quality, loss of natural soundscapes, and night skies.”

    There are currently no producing wells in this region, and BLM is under no requirement to offer these parcels for lease.  Moreover, the oil and gas industry has roughly 2 million acres of BLM-managed lands in Utah already under lease that they have not developed.  Despite the extensive leased lands, in 2016 the drilling of new oil and gas wells in Utah reached a 30-year low.  There is clearly no need to offer these two leases for sale and put Zion National Park and the surrounding region at risk from mineral development.

    “With over 4 million annual visitors to Zion National Park, BLM should be working collaboratively with the National Park Service to protect – not threaten – the world class resources those visitors come to enjoy and be inspired by,” said Cory MacNulty, with the National Parks Conservation Association.  “The doorstep to one of America’s ‘Best Ideas’ is not the place for oil and gas leasing and development.”

    “BLM’s proposal to sell these two leases is déjà vu all over again.  Just like its proposal in 2008 to sell leases adjacent to Arches and Canyonlands National Park and Dinosaur National Monument, this is an entirely ill-conceived plan that should be rejected,” said Landon Newell, staff attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.  “This lease first, think later approach to oil and gas leasing has been rejected time and time again.  It’s hard to understand what would compel BLM to propose offering these parcels but whatever their motivation, BLM should rethink its proposal which threatens Utah’s most popular National Park.”

    The two oil and gas lease parcels near Zion National Park, as well as a third parcel located adjacent to the Black Ridge Wilderness Area, are proposed for sale at BLM’s June 2017 competitive oil and gas lease sale (environmental assessment available here).  BLM is accepting comments on its controversial proposal through February 10, 2017 (more information available here).

    The proposed lease parcels overlap lands identified by BLM as possessing wilderness characteristics (i.e., outstanding opportunities for solitude and recreation) and which are proposed for Wilderness designation in America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act, H.R. 2430, S. 1375 (114th Congress).

    Photographs taken from the lease parcels are available here.

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    About Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance
    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.  For more information, visit www.suwa.org.

    About National Parks Conservation Association
    Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.

  • December 15th, 2016

    Blueprint for protecting Utah’s redrock lands provides more certainty for future energy development

    For Immediate Release

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

    Contact:
    Stephen Bloch, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3981

    Salt Lake City (December 15, 2016):  The Bureau of Land Management today issued its long-awaited Moab Master Leasing Plan.  The plan will steer energy and mineral development away from sensitive public lands near Canyonlands and Arches National Parks, popular recreation destinations, and many outstanding proposed wilderness areas that are too wild to drill.

    The BLM’s Moab Master Leasing Plan was developed in close coordination with local stakeholders and will guide how the agency manages oil and gas development and potash mining on more than 785,000 acres of public land in southeastern Utah. The agency also released preliminary alternatives for the San Rafael Master Leasing Plan, which is evaluating how to achieve better balance in an area adjacent to Canyonlands with valuable cultural resources.

    “The Moab Master Leasing Plan gives BLM the right tools to guide future oil, gas and potash development 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 as well as local communities and businesses 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. We appreciate BLM’s hard work to engage all stakeholders is this historic effort.”

    Increased energy development in eastern Utah has fueled air pollution that threatens human health and the area’s internationally acclaimed dark night skies.  It also affects recreation opportunities that contribute tens of millions of dollars to the state’s economy each year.  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 can help fit that need.

    “Some of our most treasured places remain 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 a rational 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. By finalizing the Moab MLP and moving forward with the San Rafael Desert MLP, as well as others in Colorado and Wyoming, BLM is modernizing the way we do business on our public lands by taking a thoughtful and smart approach from the beginning.”

    “Our public lands are home to our country’s last wild places, provide important wildlife habitat and drive local economies. The oil and gas industry does not belong there. This plan takes important steps to better protect vulnerable wilderness areas from wanton industrial exploration,” said 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 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.
    • Makes most future leases in the MLP area 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, it makes sure leasing and development are more thoughtful and deliberate manner that reflect the outstanding public lands in southern Utah.
    • Prohibit all potash leasing and development in the planning area.  Rather, the Plan establishes three ‘potash leasing areas’ where these activities are concentrated.

    Next up – San Rafael Desert Master Leasing Plan

    Today BLM also moved forward with its next Master Leasing Plan effort, in Utah’s San Rafael Desert, and released a series of preliminary alternative courses of action for public review and comment.  BLM previously shared these preliminary alternatives with local stakeholders, including Emery County and the National Park Service.  The San Rafael Desert Master Leasing Plan covers a landscape that is rich with cultural resources and abuts the Horseshoe Canyon extension of Canyonlands National Park.  It is located immediately west of the Moab Master Leasing Plan. BLM also continues its work on other MLPs in Western Colorado and Southwestern Wyoming.

    Additional resources:

    • Photos of public lands protected by the Moab Master Leasing Plan.
    • Photos of public lands within the San Rafael Desert Master Leasing Plan.
  • December 9th, 2016

    Yesterday afternoon, December 8, BLM announced its decision to defer from leasing two highly contested oil and gas lease parcels in Nine Mile Canyon, citing unresolved issues regarding impacts to rock art and other cultural resources.

    Read More »
  • November 29th, 2016

    A proposal by the Bureau of Land Management to sell six oil and gas leases in Nine Mile Canyon and the greater Desolation Canyon region has been met with strong opposition by historic preservation groups, The Hopi Tribe, and a coalition of conservation groups.

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