BLM selects parcels for mineral lease auction
On Dec. 19, the Utah office of the United States Bureau of Land Management will offer 142,333 acres for geothermal leasing.
While 191,000 acres of BLM administered land were initially considered for renewable energy development, close to 50,000 acres were deferred for a variety of reasons.
The BLM deferred two parcels to provide the U.S. Forest Service with additional time to conduct analysis on lands near the existing geothermal plant at Cove Fort, indicated the federal agency.
An additional eight parcels were deferred to provide time for further consultation and analysis regarding potential impacts to cultural resources and historical settings and to address tribal concerns regarding traditional cultural properties.
In consultation with the state historic preservation office and Native American tribes, the BLM determined that the important visual nature associated with some parcels may be affected by geothermal exploration and development.
Further consultation is needed on a site-specific basis to protect the Pony Express National Historic Trail corridor.
The final list for the sale includes 44 geothermal parcels totaling 142,333 acres as well as132 oil and gas parcels totaling 163,935 acres in seven Utah counties - Carbon, Duchesne, Emery, Garfield, Grand, San Juan and Uintah.
Also included are three geothermal parcels totaling 8,676 acres in Idaho and 11 parcels totaling 41,363 acres in Oregon and Washington.
The deferrals reduced the initial list of 241 proposed oil and gas parcels totaling 359,450 acres, pointed out the BLM.
Specifically, discussions with the U.S. National Park Service resulted in deferring all or part of 23 parcels totaling 37,731 acres near national parks.
Additional parcels were deferred in the vicinity of Nine Mile and Desolation canyons.
Other parcels were removed for split estate concerns, wildlife issues or conflicts with existing coal mining operations.
The BLM's final list also includes 80,015 acres deferred in Fillmore until the federal agency completes an oil and gas leasing environmental assessment.
The Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 requires the BLM to conduct quarterly sales for states where eligible lands are available and an interest exists.
Proposed parcels are reviewed for conformance with governing land use plans and compliance with applicable laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act, the National Historic Preservation Act and the Endangered Species Act.
The BLM provided notice of proposed parcels and the proposed lease sale 45 days prior to the sale, pointed out the federal agency.
Release of the mineral lease auction notice started a 30-day public review period.
During the public review period, several protests were filed in connection with the inclusion of several parcels in proposed sale, explained the BLM.
The federal agency addressed the protests and eliminated several of the parcels in question from the auction
Auction rules call for a $2 per acre minimum bonus bids on any parcel.
The auction guidelines mean a buyer will pay the bid price for the right to obtain the federal lease in addition to a standard $1.50 per acre rental on oil and gas parcels and $2 on geothermal parcels, explained the federal agency.
The BLM will also charge winning bidders $140 per parcel to help cover administrative costs.
Leases are issued for a primary term of 10 years and will continue as long thereafter as oil or gas is produced in paying quantities.
The holder of a federal lease must obtain specific permits prior to any surface disturbing activities, continued the federal agency.
If exploration occurs and the lease begins producing, the federal government will collect a 12.5 percent royalty from the developers.
In accordance with the Mineral Leasing Act, collected revenues will be split between the BLM and the state, concluded the federal agency.