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BLM Approves Plan for Drilling Near Desolation Canyon

Desolation Canyon
Adam Swisher, National Outdoor Leadership School

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has approved a plan proposed by Gasco to drill 1,300 new oil and gas wells in eastern Utah over the next 15 years.  Some of the wells will be drilled in the Desolation Canyon area near the Green River.  That has environmental groups warning of what they call a "disaster."

BLM State Director Juan Palma says the plan was adapted to address concerns about air pollution, reducing the impact of roads and keeping operations out of sight for visitors to the canyon.

"So we were able to accomodate those concerns," Palma told KUER.  "We were not able to accommodate 100% of their concerns, but we certainly feel that we moved in that direction quite a ways."

Steve Bloch with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance says the changes to the final plan aren't consistent with the agreements reached with the BLM and other gas developers on several recent projects in eastern Utah.  And he says the Obama administration isn't living up to its rhetoric about protecting the environment.

"The Vernal [resource management] plan and the Bush administration's plan for this area is forming the blueprint for how to manage these lands, and that's simply the wrong choice," Bloch told KUER.

Environmentalists will have another opportunity to challenge the plan when Gasco applies for individual drilling permits.

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