One month before the largest wilderness bill of the last ten years was passed (the Emery County Public Land Management Act, signed into law as part of the John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act on March 12, 2019), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) rushed to issue a lease to drill in the heart of the Labyrinth Canyon Wilderness, which was formally designated as wilderness by the Dingell Act.
The BLM had full knowledge that lands encompassing the leased area would soon be designated as wilderness—but went ahead and issued the lease anyway. SUWA protested that decision but the BLM’s state director rejected our challenge.
Now, the agency has prepared a draft environmental assessment (EA) to approve a helium drilling project on this lease inside the wilderness. The public comment period is open through November 9, 2020.
If allowed to proceed, the project will involve months of extensive construction in this remarkably quiet and remote place, including, at a minimum, road improvements (upgrading and graveling of existing two-tracks), well pad construction (5-7 acres of disturbance), pipelines, infrastructure on the well pad, and construction of a 10-acre processing facility on nearby Utah school trust lands. The project developer plans to drill at least two wells for helium, which requires a federal oil and gas lease to develop and which will have many of the same on-the-ground impacts as conventional oil and gas drilling.
The Labyrinth Canyon section of the Green River, which was designated under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act as a “Scenic” segment, is one of the most iconic, remote, and world-renowned river segments in the United States.
Please contact the BLM today and tell them:
- Labyrinth Canyon Wilderness is too special to drill (this includes the wilderness area itself as well as the adjacent Labyrinth Canyon Scenic segment of the Green River).
- The area is very remote, quiet, and scenic, and industrialization of the area will significantly degrade—or destroy—these values.
- Both the lease and this last-minute rush to approve development before a potential change in presidential administration highlights everything that is wrong with the Trump administration’s “energy dominance” agenda.
P.S. This Salt Lake Tribune article has more detail on how this lease was slipped in during the 11th hour before Labyrinth Canyon was designated as wilderness.