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BLM Postpones Utah Lease Sale; Environmental Groups Cheer

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Utah on Monday postponed a scheduled oil/natural gas lease sale set for Tuesday to allow more time to accommodate what the agency called a high level of public interest. Environmental groups applauded the action. “Dozens of citizens" were planning to protest the auction, they said.

BLM's Utah office said it expects to reschedule the sale, and the information will be posted on the agency's website (www.blm.gov/ut/st/en.html). "We intend to move ahead as quickly as possible with the sale," a BLM Utah spokesperson told NGI on Tuesday.

At stake are 39 parcels totaling more than 37,000 acres in three areas: West Desert District (9 parcels, 12,943 acres); Green River District (26 parcels, 22,983 acres); and Fishlake National Forest (4 parcels, 1,652 acres). All the areas include natural gas leases, and the West Desert and Green River districts also include oil leases. There are a handful of parcels each in the West Desert and Fishlake with the bulk of the leasing concentrated in the Green River area, the BLM spokesperson said.

Environmental groups described the potential leases as representing an estimated 1.6-6.6 million tons of potential greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution. They called on BLM to "keep it in the ground,” echoing a rallying cry against the Keystone XL pipeline.

Seeking to build on the momentum from the Obama administration’s decision to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline earlier this month, environmental groups last week sought to intervene and cancel an oil and gas lease sale in Colorado scheduled for last Thursday by the BLM office in that state (see Daily GPINov. 11). BLM, however, held that sale as scheduled, involving almost 90,000 acres in central-eastern parts of the state.

BLM's Colorado State Office sold 106 parcels totaling 83,534 acres for more than $5 million including rentals and fees at its quarterly oil and gas lease sale. The highest per-acre price was for a 160-acre parcel in Weld County, sold to Denver-based Colorado Energy Minerals for $1,200/acre, the BLM Colorado office said.

Of the 106 parcels, 91 are U.S. Forest Service (USFS) parcels totaling 73,388 acres within the Pawnee National Grassland that sold for $4.2 million. USFS recently conducted an environmental impact statement (EIS) granting the BLM consent to offer parcels in the Pawnee National Grassland. The BLM acted as a cooperating agency on the Forest Service EIS and adopted the plan, BLM said.

The Utah postponement was characterized by the opposition groups as a "victory" for "a rapidly growing national movement calling on President Obama to define his climate legacy by stopping new federal fossil fuel leases on public lands and oceans."

In addition to Colorado, similar protests were staged in Wyoming and planned for later in the year in Nevada and Washington, DC, under the "Keep It in the Ground" slogan, a spokesperson for the campaign said.

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