A federal lands agency wants to sell more than three dozen oil and gas leases, and environmental groups are protesting because some potential drilling sites lie just outside protected areas.
The White House is open about wanting what it calls “U.S. energy dominance.” In that spirit, the Utah office of the Bureau of Land Management plans a March auction of oil and gas prospects scattered across more than 51,000 acres of federal land in Grand and San Juan counties. Several environmental groups say the targeted lands include areas that should be conserved, not drilled.
“The BLM is proposing to lease first and think later,” says Steve Bloch, an attorney with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, “to really rush ahead with the sale of these leases and not do their homework to even know what the resources are that are at risk.”
Bloch says, once leases are sold, the agency will find it hard to follow through on its promise to add environmental protections before drilling begins. He points out that culturally sensitive acreage just outside the Hovenweep National Monument and the new Indian Creek National Monument are part of the March lease sale.