The decision to withdraw almost 100-thousand acres of public land from tomorrow’s auction of oil and gas drilling leases is being criticized by industry groups and members of Utah’s Congressional delegation as caving in to pressure from environmental groups.
Statements issued by Senators Hatch and Lee and Congressman Rob Bishop don’t use the term “San Rafael Swell” to indicate the part of the state where the leases were withdrawn. Bishop says they’re not technically in the Swell, while environmental groups have a broader view of what that includes. The land in question is all in Emery County, north, east and west of the red rock landscape visible from Interstate 70.
Kathleen Sgamma with the drilling industry group Western Energy Alliance believes the decision ignores years of careful study by the Bureau of Land Management in Utah.
“After all of that analysis," Sgamma says, "we find that the Washington BLM has again pressured the state to take land out of the lease sales.”
Congressman Bishop has been working with stakeholders to come up with a comprehensive bill that would finalize wilderness and other protected designations and leave the BLM free to issue leases for energy development without interference.
Bishop tells KUER, “The overall solution is to come up with a long-term plan that can bring some finality to these areas, and they’re not done on a case-by-case basis, on a whim-by-whim basis.”
Bishop says those negotiations are going ahead slowly, but they haven’t produced any proposals yet that can be put on a map.