Allege Utah BLM illegally piecemealing oil and gas development
Contact: Landon Newell, Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, 801.428.3991; Devorah Ancel, Sierra Club Environmental Law Program, 415.977.5721
SALT LAKE CITY – Last Friday, October 31, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and Sierra Club challenged a decision by the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Moab field office to approve a natural gas gathering pipeline system on public lands close to Dead Horse Point State Park and the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park. These lands are remarkably scenic, are visited by hundreds of thousands of people annually from around the country and the world, and are important to Moab’s tourism economy.
The gathering pipeline system was proposed by Fidelity Exploration & Production, the primary oil and gas operator in this area. The system can only operate when connected to another pipeline project that BLM approved last year, known as the “Dead Horse Lateral.” Rather than analyze the environmental impacts of these two projects together, BLM piecemealed its review into separate analyses. Federal environmental laws prohibit the agency from taking such an approach. Instead, BLM was required to prepare a comprehensive analysis that considered both pipeline proposals as well as associated development activities.
“BLM’s decision to consider Fidelity’s gathering pipeline system in isolation, and not take into account the environmental impacts from other projects necessary to make the gathering system work, is a textbook violation of environmental laws,” said Landon Newell, staff attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “As a result, BLM significantly underplayed the impacts from swelling oil and gas development in this remarkable landscape.”
Oil and gas development has significantly expanded over the past five years with dozens of new wells already drilled or planned. Along with that drilling, Fidelity has conducted intrusive seismic tests and installed other oil field infrastructure. Heavy truck traffic is now common along Utah State Highway 313 leading to Canyonlands National Park, Dead Horse Point State Park, and the region’s scenic redrock country.
“The ever-expanding oil and gas extraction in the Big Flat region requires the BLM to conduct a full analysis of the numerous impacts to this iconic landscape,” said Moab resident William Rau. “I am highly concerned over the safety of the pipeline, oil wells and increased heavy truck traffic, and the dangers they pose to the 500,000 annual visitors to the area.”
In its third quarter earnings report, issued Monday, November 3, 2014 Fidelity’s parent company the MDU Resources Group announced its intention to sell Fidelity Exploration and Production.
SUWA and Sierra Club’s challenge was filed with the BLM’s State Office in Salt Lake City.