New BLM Oil/Gas Policies Will Fast-track Leasing, Cut Opportunities for Public Review

BLM also does away with popular master leasing plan program

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 1, 2018

Contact: Steve Bloch, Legal Director, 801.428.3981 or 801.859.1552(c)

Landon Newell, Staff Attorney, 801.428.3991

Salt Lake City, UT –Today, the Bureau of Land Management released new policy guidance for how the agency will approach oil and gas leasing on public lands.  

In response to the new policy announcement, Steve Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), released the following statement.

“Today’s sweeping change to BLM’s oil and gas leasing program threatens irreplaceable federal public lands and resources in Utah and across the west. “This ‘lease first, think later’ approach is fundamentally inconsistent with federal laws that demand agencies think before they act and consider the full range of impacts from selling oil and gas leases.  Utah’s redrock wilderness is one the places directly in the crosshairs from this misguided policy, and SUWA expects to be fighting it in the trenches and the courts over the coming months and years.”

The new policy represents a sea change in how the BLM will handle oil and gas leasing on federal public lands in Utah and across the west.  This new direction includes shortening timeframes for protests, expediting NEPA reviews, making public participation in the leasing process optional, and mandating a top-down, Washington, D.C. review before any state office can defer the sale of new leases.

The new policy also announces that the popular master leasing plan program has been terminated.  In 2016, BLM finalized the Moab master leasing plan with support from local governments, the outdoor recreation industry, and conservationists.  While the Moab plan remains in place, the BLM’s previous plans to complete several other MLPs in Utah are now derailed.

BLM entered into this policy as part of a sweetheart deal in a settlement with the Western Energy Alliance in a pending case in federal court in New Mexico.  Conservation groups, including SUWA, are parties to that case but were not  included in any settlement discussions.

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