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PNS Daily Newscast - November 13, 2018. 


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Court Backs Closer Look at Oil, Gas Leases on Public Land

PHOTO: The San Rafael Swell area that straddles Utah and Wyoming is of interest to oil and gas developers, and has been the subject of a two-year court case. Courtesy Bureau of Land Management.
PHOTO: The San Rafael Swell area that straddles Utah and Wyoming is of interest to oil and gas developers, and has been the subject of a two-year court case. Courtesy Bureau of Land Management.
March 14, 2013

SALT LAKE CITY - Before putting an oil or gas lease up for auction on public land, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is supposed to consider the effects of development on wildlife, water and air quality. Concerns that the BLM had not done a thorough job of that led the Interior Department to put a hold on 118 oil and gas leases sold in Utah and Wyoming between 2005 and 2010. That sparked a two-year legal battle decided this week by a federal appeals court in Denver.

The court sided with environmental groups and the Interior Department. Melanie Kay is an attorney with Earthjustice.

"The status quo should not be 'lease before you think,' it should be, 'think before you lease.' As we have stressed all along in the litigation, these are everyone's public lands," she said, "not the energy companies' public lands."

The Western Energy Alliance and some developers brought the suit. They contended that leases are supposed to be issued promptly after an auction.

Nada Culver, director of The Wilderness Society BLM Action Center, said wilderness quality and sage grouse habitat should have been considered, as well as any protests that had been lodged.

"It is common sense, but now it is also officially the law. It's up to them to make an informed decision before they try to lease public lands. We're depending on them, and the law tells them to do it."

Culver said the outcome of the case indicates the BLM should not assume land is appropriate for drilling just because a developer has recommended it.

The leases in question included 150,000 acres in eastern Utah and western Wyoming. More than 70 of the 118 leases in the case ended up being approved by the BLM, and the energy companies did not pursue some of the others.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - UT