A Parting Gift to the Oil and Gas Industry
We knew that the Bush administration and its minions in Utah would do everything in their power before leaving office to compromise our state and its remarkable wilderness landscapes. We were right. The BLM issued “records of decision” marking final approval for all six resource management plans (RMPs) just in time for the Bush administration to scurry out of office. It has been hard to read or listen to the nonsense that has come from Utah state director Selma Sierra—herself a close friend of former Interior Secretary Gale Norton—about the burning “need” to get these plans finished “on schedule.”
As lobbyist Bob Weidner told a collection of county and state officials in 2006—with BLM officials and industry representatives looking on approvingly—that’s doublespeak for “striking while the iron is hot” to “fix” these RMPs, “an opportunity that may never come again.” The BLM met industry expectations, leaving us with a sorry collection of illegal plans that throw the door wide open for rampant off-road vehicle damage and energy leasing and development.
Here’s one of the first waves to break: the Utah BLM decided to delay a previously scheduled quarterly oil and gas lease sales from November 18 to December 19, 2008. Why the delay? Because the BLM could only sell these leases after it approved the above-mentioned RMPs with pro forma records of decision. No records of decision, no lease sales. BLM officials have openly admitted to us that they switched the date to allow them to begin selling leases in some of the state’s most wild and remote public lands—lands that had been blocked from leasing by a landmark SUWA legal victory in 2006 and several administrative appeals board decisions that followed.
Why would the BLM do such a thing? Quite simply because industry asked (read: told) the agency to do so. There is certainly no shortage of public lands in Utah already under lease but not in production. As of the end of fiscal year 2007, there were over 4.6 million acres of BLM managed land under lease but less than 1 million acres in production.
Bottom line, industry wants to get leases while the getting is good. While that may make sense for a private company’s bottom line, it’s no way to manage Utah’s redrock country.
With your support, we will sucessfully challenge this lease sale, as we have so many other deplorable actions that the BLM has undertaken these past eight years.