SUWA supports a balanced approach to energy issues in Utah that includes protecting Utah’s redrock wilderness and other special places, as well as promoting energy efficiency and conservation.
Oil & Gas Leasing and Development
Under the Bush administration, we challenged repeated attempts to sell new oil and gas leases and drill new wells on wilderness-quality lands across the state. Now we are working with the Obama administration to bring balance back to public land management through tools like master leasing plans (MLPs), which take a closer look at which lands should be off-limits to new oil and gas leasing and development and which should remain open to such activities. Currently, the BLM is preparing a Moab MLP that covers nearly 850,000 acres. We are working to shape that document to provide stronger protection for proposed redrock wilderness as well as Utah’s national parks.
SUWA recently persuaded the BLM to drop a proposal to sell more than 85,000 acres of oil and gas leases in the San Rafael Swell. With our conservation partners, we are now challenging the “Gasco” natural gas project that approved more than 200 new natural gas wells in the Desolation Canyon proposed wilderness. Over the past five years we’ve also reached important settlements with oil and gas companies including the Bill Barrett Corporation and Anadarko Petroleum Corporation. These agreements have resulted in meaningful protection for the Desolation Canyon, Jack Canyon and White River proposed wilderness areas.
As Interior Secretary Sally Jewel has noted, it is not a question of whether there should be any leasing and development on public lands. Such activity—if in compliance with federal, state and local laws intended to protect public health and the environment—may be appropriate in certain areas. But the destruction of Utah’s redrock wilderness for a trivial amount of oil and gas (predicted at best to be less than 4 weeks of natural gas and 1 week of oil) simply makes no sense. With the help of our members and activists, SUWA is working to protect these magnificent landscapes for the enjoyment of current and future generations.
Oil Shale and Tar Sands
Utah has the misfortune of being the only state in the union with substantial tar sands deposits, as well as shallow outcroppings of oil shale. There is no shortage of small (and big) time schemers with dreams of exploiting these resources and seeing full scale oil shale and tar sand development. The greenhouse gas emissions from such development – and their contribution to climate change – would be staggering. SUWA is actively engaged in challenging oil shale and tar sands leasing and pilot projects that threaten America’s redrock wilderness.