The federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) may move ahead with an auction of oil and natural gas leases later this year in Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota that were held up over climate change concerns.

The "earliest sale" may come in either late November or December in the three western states, said BLM spokeswoman Mary Apple in the Billings, MT, office. She noted that the last sale held in the three states was in January.

The auction would include approximately 220 leases on 260 square miles in Montana, South Dakota and North Dakota. Of those, 57 leases were issued in 2008 and subsequently suspended until environmental assessments were completed, she said. And most of the other leases were nominated for April and June lease sales, which were never held due to the concerns over emissions from drilling activities.

After conducting a series of environmental assessments (EA) this year, the BLM concluded that emissions from the expected development of these leases would be insignificant. "The selling and the potential development of these leases in these parcels are of no [significant] environmental impact," Apple said.

"We are pleased the BLM released these EAs so quickly with a finding of no significant impacts," said Kathleen Sgamma, director of government affairs for Western Energy Alliance, formerly the Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States.

The BLM is seeking public review and comments on the EAs. The deadline for comments is Sept. 13.

©Copyright 2010 Intelligence Press Inc. All rights reserved. The preceding news report may not be republished or redistributed, in whole or in part, in any form, without prior written consent of Intelligence Press, Inc.