The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for the second time in a few months has agreed to suspend leases auctioned for oil and natural gas development to reconsider the environmental review and examine possible impacts on climate change.
BLM Utah officials notified the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) that it was suspending the leases issued last September in the San Rafael Swell area covering about 200,000 acres pending completion of a more extensive environmental analysis.
A similar ruling in March by a U.S. District Court stayed development of more than 300,000 acres leased in Wyoming until a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis was conducted about how emissions from production could contribute to climate change.
Also in March, a federal judge in Colorado ruled that the BLM had violated NEPA by not taking a hard look at the indirect impacts from energy production when it approved drilling on nearly 20,000 acres in the Piceance Basin. The case concerns plans to develop the Bull Mountain Unit, which includes about 19,670 acres of federal and private land 30 miles northeast of Paonia, CO.
Western Energy Alliance President Kathleen Sgamma said she wasn't surprised by the Utah action by BLM.
"There was really nothing materially different about the leases in the three states, nor would we expect to see a different ruling from the same judge on the leases in the other two states," she told NGI’s Shale Daily.
With the separate cases, parties agreed not to pursue separate court rulings but to voluntarily follow the judge’s order, Sgamma said.
"Since it took BLM less than a month to do the analysis required by the judge, I’m not at all concerned about the action," she said. It "saves our legal resources, and BLM can quickly do the analysis so that development can move forward on leases in all three states."