BLM Proposes Oil and Gas Leases in Utah

Published October 17, 2017

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) proposes offering 75 parcels totaling about 94,000 acres in Utah’s Duchesne, Uintah, and Emery counties in its December oil and gas lease sale, including one of three parcels considered earlier in its draft environmental assessment (EA) near Utah’s Dinosaur National Monument.

BLM’s final EA, released on September 1, removed two parcels closest to the southwest boundary of the monument from the planned lease sale, and it advanced for sale a parcel covering about 1,300 acres approximately 2.5 miles from the monument’s visitor center. Most of the parcel is managed by BLM, with 238 acres being privately owned. BLM’s proposal was open for public comment until October 2.

Protecting Dinosaur Monument

After the BLM released its draft EA in July, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert sent a letter to BLM’s Vernal (Utah) Field Office, requesting the agency take a closer look at the parcels it was considering for lease near the national monument.

“As the parcels are near the boundary of Dinosaur National Monument, the State wishes to ensure leasing of these parcels does not impact visual resources or cause light or sound disturbances within the National Monument,” Herbert wrote. “Even though the EA includes lease stipulations and notices for all three parcels that could sufficiently mitigate impacts from oil and gas drilling within the parcels, the State encourages BLM to provide a thoughtful review of these parcels to ensure energy developments can successfully coexist with outdoor recreation.”

BLM officials responded to Herbert’s concerns by removing from the final proposed lease sale the two parcels closest to Dinosaur National Monument.

Years of ‘Hostility’

Jordan McGillis, a policy analyst with the Institute for Energy Research, says former President Barack Obama deliberately stymied oil and gas production on public lands.

“The Obama administration missed a golden opportunity during its second term in office,” McGillis said. “High oil and gas prices in the early 2010s stimulated a boom in oil and gas production on private and state lands, while the [Obama] administration’s hostility to oil and gas caused production to lag on federal lands.

“One indicator of this hostility was the average time it took to approve or deny an application to drill after a lease was obtained during the Obama years,” said McGillis. “In FY 2006 it took an average of 218 days to obtain a lease. By FY 2011, however, the average wait had increased to 307 days, an increase of 41 percent.”

‘Unlocking More Federal Lands’

In contrast with Obama’s record, McGillis says President Donald Trump is seizing the opportunity to promote prosperity by unlocking access to the nation’s abundant natural resources.

“Our resources are a natural economic endowment that can promote our prosperity and our energy security, but only if the federal government is willing to facilitate the process,” McGillis said. “Unlocking more federal lands for leasing and expediting the permitting timeline has been a priority of the Trump team since at least early 2016 on the campaign trail.”

“The BLM plan to offer 94,000 acres in the Utah counties of Duchesne, Uintah, and Emery for leasing marks a particularly stark contrast with the Obama agenda,” said McGillis.

Derek Monson, executive director of policy at the Sutherland Institute, says the Utah lease sale shows energy production is compatible with environmental protection.

“Development of energy resources on public lands has been, and will continue to be, a crucial part of America’s economic strength and diversity,” said Monson. “The upcoming lease of these parcels illustrates this while also demonstrating aggressive energy development can coexist with conservation of other important resources, within a multiuse framework on public lands.”

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is a research fellow at The Heartland Institute.