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Report: Oil and Gas Companies Stockpile Utah Public Land

Oil and gas companies are stockpiling close to a million acres of Utah public land without developing the property, according to a new report. (zhengzaishuru/iStockphoto)
Oil and gas companies are stockpiling close to a million acres of Utah public land without developing the property, according to a new report. (zhengzaishuru/iStockphoto)
December 15, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah has almost one million acres of public land tied up in suspended, unused leases to drill for oil and gas, according to a report released today by the Wilderness Society.

Researchers found that 3.25 million acres across the West are permitted for oil and gas but aren't being developed.

Nada Culver, senior director for agency policy with The Wilderness Society, says the Bureau of Land Management shouldn't be granting suspensions, sometimes for decades or more, without good reason.

"In Utah, we saw six leases suspended in September 1998, and the justification for that suspension ended in 2005,” she relates. “The BLM never lifted the suspension. Had they done that, these leases would have expired. And instead, they are part of ongoing suspensions due to litigation over the improper leases that were granted."

The report says this stockpiling of unused leases has cost taxpayers more than $80 million in lost rental fees alone – not to mention the royalties from potential production. Plus, the lands are then unavailable for any other use, such as conservation or recreation.

Culver says suspensions are supposed to be granted only for legitimate reasons, such as the need for environmental review or unavoidable permitting delays – not simply because the company failed to develop the property.

"That's not how the system is supposed to work, and these are public lands that are supposed to be leased and used for the benefit of all Americans – not just for what might suit the profit margin of one company at a given time," Culver stresses.

The report calls for an investigation by the Government Accountability Office, and asks the BLM to review all suspended land leases to see if they should be allowed to expire.


Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - UT