Utah’s governor has struck a deal with an oil company to hold off on drilling in an area of the Book Cliffs that’s prized for its wildlife habitat.
The agreement between Governor Gary Herbert’s office, Anadarko Petroleum and the State Institutional Trust Lands Administration, or SITLA, will allow a lease to go ahead. But Robin Olsen with Anadarko says they won’t drill in the sensitive Bogart Canyon area before January of 2016.
“In the previous agreement," Olsen says, "we could have started exploration activities much sooner, as early as this year. So that’s an effective 27-month delay.”
The deal is consistent with what Anadarko was planning to do anyway. It says it was going to begin its exploration on the northern part of the 96-thousand acre lease and work southward toward Bogart Canyon over a period of years.
That much delay could give Congressman Rob Bishop time to work out a comprehensive agreement on wilderness and other land designations in eastern Utah. Alan Matheson, the governor’s environmental advisor, says that process is well underway.
“There have been at least a hundred stakeholder groups involved in these discussions," Matheson tells KUER, "and the parties have had well over three hundred meetings, public meetings, gone out and looked at the land. Many of the parties are preparing maps with their wish lists, or at least an initial idea on what lands are appropriate for preservation.”
The SITLA board will take public comment and vote on the new agreement at its regular meeting in St. George on September 26th.