Here are some “good news” stories that you may have missed over the past few weeks. Any one of these things, standing alone, would be reason to cheer. Taken together, you might agree that fortune is smiling on us.
- Appeals Board upholds BLM decision not to lease San Rafael Swell for oil and gas. Last week, an Interior Department appeals board upheld Utah BLM State Director Juan Palma’s decision not to offer certain parcels at the November 2013 oil and gas lease sale. Oil and gas companies had hoped to bid on and develop thousands of acres in the San Rafael Swell, but Director Palma made the right decision to withdraw those lands from sale. Thank you to everyone who helped us protect these wild lands in the San Rafael Swell, including the more than 200 wilderness supporters who gathered outside the BLM headquarters in September 2013 chanting “No wells in the Swell.”
- Federal court rejects industry challenge of Salazar decision to withdraw 77 leases from Dec 2008 lease sale. On February 12th a federal district court judge dismissed a lawsuit brought in 2009 by some of the high bidders who challenged Secretary Salazar’s decision to withdraw 77 leases from the infamous December 2008 oil and gas lease sale. This should be the end of the line for the industry-led litigation challenging this lease sale.
- Wild and culturally significant lands taken off the chopping block. Last week, Utah BLM State Director Juan Palma announced his decision not to offer over twenty oil and gas leases in proposed wilderness and other culturally significant lands. Director Palma also deferred leasing about a dozen parcels in the so-called “state roadless area” (located in the Book Cliffs and a popular area for backcountry hunting) at the request of the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration. Predictably, oil and gas trade groups complained about this decision but the fact of the matter is that nearly 4 million acres of BLM-managed lands in Utah are under lease while just around 1 million acres are in development. There simply is no shortage of leased lands!
- Only 11 oil and gas rigs operating in Utah. The number of operating oil and gas rigs in Utah has dropped by more than half from this time last year (26 rigs in Feb 2014, 11 rigs in Feb 2015). The rigs that remain in operation are largely concentrated in well developed areas in the Uintah Basin (Utah’s “oil patch”) which means fewer threats to proposed wilderness . . . for now (we’ll take it!).