BLM Releases Report on Utah Oil and Gas Leases

Last edited 09/29/2021

WASHINGTON, DC. A special Bureau of Land Management report on a controversial 2008 oil and gas lease sale in Utah, delivered today to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, recommends that the BLM lead the development of a comprehensive interagency strategy to address energy leasing, development, and related air quality concerns for Utah and other western states.

The review also recommends: increasing the level of coordination and collaboration in dealing with oil and gas leasing and development, both at the Federal level and the state level; studying the use of interdisciplinary field reviews for all proposed lease sales; and improving interdisciplinary participation in identifying lease parcels to be offered.

“The oil and gas resources under our public lands are an important part of our energy future, but we must ensure that development is happening in the right way and in the right places,” said Secretary Salazar. “The report helps clear off the cloud that has hung over these 77 parcels since they were first proposed, and gets to the bottom of which should be leased and which – such as those near national parks – are simply not appropriate for development. The report also includes several important recommendations for leasing reforms that we will carefully review as part of our efforts to improve our oil and gas programs and to deliver a fair return to the taxpayer.”

“The BLM takes very seriously the review team's findings,” said BLM Director Bob Abbey. “We are committed to the Secretary's goal of reforming the federal oil and gas regulatory regime so as to ensure efficient, but responsible, development of our domestic energy resources. We will convene an intra-agency team to consider further improvements to our oil and gas leasing program based on the report's recommendations.”

On Jan. 17, 2009, a federal district court temporarily restrained the BLM from issuing 77 oil and gas leases sold in the December auction. On Feb. 6, Interior Secretary Salazar concluded that the issues raised by the court, along with other concerns that had been raised about the lease sale, merited a special review. Accordingly, Secretary Salazar directed that the leases be withdrawn and bonus payments be returned to the bidders. He then requested that Deputy Secretary Hayes form a departmental team that would evaluate the sale and make recommendations regarding the matter.

The report issued by the Deputy Secretary in June recommended that the BLM establish an interdisciplinary team to make site-specific decisions on whether to reoffer the parcels under the same conditions as previously specified, reoffer the parcels under different terms, or defer the parcels from leasing.

The interdisciplinary team recommended leasing 17 of the parcels, deferring 52 parcels, and withdrawing 8 parcels. Deferral means that the parcels may not be leased until necessary corrections are made to the associated leasing documents, or until conditions are such that leasing would assist in the orderly development of the oil and gas resource. Deferral could also mean removal of the parcels from leasing. The recommendation to remove 8 parcels from leasing was the direct result of field reviews that found that leasing was inappropriate due to critical resource values and /or the apparent lack of net benefit to be gained from leasing.

The review also suggests that a number of parcels could be offered for sale without the development of additional air quality models; however, air quality studies were recommended for other groups of parcels.

To read the interdisciplinary team's report, click here. For maps and additional information on the report, click here.

The BLM manages more land – 256 million acres – than any other Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM, with a budget of about $1 billion, also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estates throughout the nation. The BLM's multiple-use mission is to sustain the health and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. The BLM accomplishes this by managing such activities as outdoor recreation, livestock grazing, mineral development, and energy production, and by conserving natural, historical, cultural, and other resources on public lands.

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