SALT LAKE CITY – The Bureau of Land Management-Utah held its quarterly oil and gas lease sale Tuesday and sold 29 parcels out of 35 parcels – a total of 44,000 acres – offered in Emery, Carbon and Uintah counties that produced $3.4 million.
Finley Resources, Inc., out of Fort Worth, Texas, paid the highest total bid-per-acre at $12,000 for an 80-acre parcel in Uintah County. The company alone made the highest overall bid of $1.83 million for a 183-acre parcel also located in Uintah County.
While the U.S. Treasury receives 51 percent of the sales and associated costs to the U.S. Treasury, Utah rakes in the remaining 49 percent. The funds are shared with the counties where the leased lands are located.
“In the year leading up to today’s sale, we conducted in-depth environmental analysis and offered opportunities for public participation as part of our continued national leasing reform implementation efforts,” BLM-Utah State Director Juan Palma said. “The combination of thorough environmental analysis and public participation helps us ensure that energy resources on Utah’s public lands are responsibly developed in the right places and in the right ways.”
Previously, BLM-Utah announced the retraction of 100,000 acres of action-slated land located in and around the San Rafael Swell. Environmental advocates and outdoor enthusiasts applauded the move, fearing the extraction of oil and gas in the region would hurt the Swell.
“Citizens argued that the Swell – a geologic wonderland of majestic mesas, jagged cliff faces, twisting spires and hoodoos in south central Utah – is too precious to drill,” the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance posted on its website. “The region has been proposed for protection as a national park, national monument, national conservation area, and wilderness. The Swell is a popular destination for hikers, canyoneers, bikers, jeepers, rock art aficionados, and anyone seeking to saturate their eyes with beauty.”
SUWA was one of many conversation groups that filed to protect the San Rafael Swell from drilling.
Conversely, the move drew ire from members of Utah’s congressional delegation. Both Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee frowned on the withdrawal of the 100,000 acres.
Hatch said the BLM was giving into pressure from “environmental elites,” and that “this hurts American jobs and American energy independence and must stop.”
“This last-minute bait and switch only reinforces the widespread belief that, under this administration, BLM is becoming a vehicle for policies created by radical environmentalists,” Lee said.
“We are committed to responsible development of energy resources on Utah’s public lands,” Palma said in a statement released this week. “We are deferring these particular lands from the upcoming sale to provide for additional review and consideration of the potential impacts leasing poses to natural and cultural resources.”
So what does this mean for the southern half of the state?
The next oil and gas lease auction takes place with lands covered by the Color County District, it will be held in May 2014. An auction would have been held in March 2014 – covering the Canyon County District – but was derailed due to delays caused by the government’s partial shutdown in October. The March and May oil and gas auctions have since been consolidated.
Environmental assessments for the combined auctions will be released by the BLM on Dec. 20. Posting the EAs will initiate a 30-day public review and comment period.
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