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10/09/2009

Secretary Salazar Announces Fate of Controversial Utah Oil and Gas Leases

Yesterday, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced his department's findings in regards to 77 controversial leases near federally protected lands in Utah.  Those leases were handed out on December 19, 2008, just as the previous Administration was leaving office and without following the proper process.  Upon entering his new role as Secretary, Salazar put a hold on all 77 of the leases while Interior further reviewed them.  Because of this, Senator Bennett (R-UT) delayed the nomination of David Hayes for Interior deputy secretary.

Salazar's decision yesterday outright cancels 8 of the leases.  These were some of the most egregious ones that would have endangered national icons.  It further delayed 52 of the leases, citing that further analysis is required.  The decision also said that 17 of the original 77 leases would be allowed to proceed.

This announcement, however, comes in the wake of an ongoing lawsuit which challenges all 77 of the leases.  In January, federal district court judge Ricardo Urbina issued a temporary restraining order prohibiting the Bureau of Land Management from issuing the leases.

Whatever the final outcome, the fact remains that the benefits of protecting these areas drastically outweigh the energy that would result from developing them.  An analysis conducted by the Wilderness Society found that all 77 leases would contribute a total of 2 days worth of natural gas and 2 hours worth of oil at current rates of national consumption.

Read the DOI's press release.

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