Federal judge blocks oil and gas leases in Utah

Industry association IPAMS was disappointed that a federal judge granted a temporary restraining order blocking the US BLM from issuing oil and gas leases in Utah.

By OGJ editors
HOUSTON, Jan. 20 -- The Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States was disappointed that a federal judge granted a temporary restraining order (TRO) blocking the US Bureau of Land Management from issuing oil and gas leases in Utah.

US District Judge Richardo M. Urbina in Washington, DC, issued the TRO on Jan. 17, saying that the Department of the Interior had not done enough environmental analysis on how oil and gas operations would affect air quality.

The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and six other environmental groups had requested the TRO to block oil and gas exploration on federal land in Utah. These groups initially called for the sale's cancellation, saying the lease sale included tracts around Arches and Canyonlands National Parks (OGJ, Jan. 5, 2009, p. 27).

The TRO blocks leases on more than 110,000 acres of federal land in Carbon, Duchesne, Emery, Garfield, Grand, San Juan, and Uintah counties.

Kathleen Sgamma, IPAMS government affairs director in Denver, said, "We are obviously very disappointed that the issuance of the leases will be held up. This is a setback for energy security and reducing greenhouse gas emissions."

Natural gas emits just more than half the carbon dioxide of coal when burned for electric power generation, Sgamma said.

Oil and gas companies bought the leases on Dec. 19, 2008. The earliest that BLM could have cashed the checks from winning bidders and finalized the leases would have been Jan. 19.

Sgamma commented: "The purchase of a lease is not a 'green light' to drill. A lease is only the first step in a long, expensive process, which can take many years no guarantee of production. Those protesting the sale often forget that natural gas and oil activity in Utah occupies much less than 1% of public land. With current technology and industry practices, producers are able to develop vital energy resources now, and reclaim the land to its original condition soon afterwards."

More in General Interest