Oil and Gas Development Archives - Page 4 of 21

  • December 15th, 2016

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

    For Immediate Release


    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.

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  • 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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  • October 27th, 2016

    A federal district court judge in Colorado ruled yesterday in favor of SUWA and a coalition of conservation groups in their challenge to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to deny Endangered Species Act protection to two imperiled wildflowers that live only on oil shale formations in Utah and Colorado.

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  • October 13th, 2016

    A federal judge recently issued an order rejecting a natural gas project on public lands along the Upper Desolation Canyon stretch of the Green River in eastern Utah. This ruling received local and national media attention.

    The plan at issue in the ruling is part of the highly controversial Gasco Natural Gas Development Project, which the BLM approved in 2012. The “Gasco project” cleared the way for nearly 1,300 new oil and gas wells in Utah’s greater Desolation Canyon region, including 215 new wells, along with roads, pipelines, and other infrastructure in an area that conservationists and federal officials agree is a wilderness-caliber landscape. This 16-well project was one of the first site-specific authorizations to follow.

    The BLM has described the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness as one of the largest unprotected roadless complexes in the lower 48 states. The area, which surrounds the Desolation Canyon stretch of the Green River, is awe-inspiring, offering spectacular vistas and abundant solitude.


    The Upper Desolation Canyon stretch of the Green River offers opportunities for solitude, flatwater boating, and camping for both families and river runners alike. Photo copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA

    The Gasco project was heavily criticized in editorials across the country when it was approved in 2012. It was also roundly decried by congressional leaders, the outdoor industry, and environmental leaders, who called on the Interior Department to protect Desolation Canyon.

    The 16-well project at issue in the judge’s ruling was slated for construction on three drilling pads adjacent to the Upper Desolation Canyon stretch of the Green River—a section of water that offers opportunities for families and river runners to enjoy solitude between high canyon walls, sandy beaches and groves of cottonwood trees.


    Upper Desolation Canyon. Copyright Ray Bloxham/SUWA.

    The BLM’s approval of the Gasco project and the 16-well project came at a time when eastern Utah had experienced several years of record high wintertime ozone levels that are largely the result of oil and gas development. The recent court decision held that the BLM’s evaluation of air pollution, and in particular ozone pollution, was inaccurate and inadequate. The judge also agreed with us that the agency did not seriously consider the noise from drilling these wells and how that would affect river runners and families.

    A big thank you to all our members who submitted comments on the Gasco project, wrote letters to the editor opposing the project, or otherwise supported our efforts to send this one back to the drawing board. We couldn’t have done it without you!

    This case was brought by SUWA, Natural Resources Defense Council and The Wilderness Society. A team of SUWA attorneys staffed this case, led by our former colleague David Garbett.

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