After receiving nominations for nearly 246,000 acres, BLM Utah will offer 109,000 acres (60 parcels) at their upcoming oil and gas lease sale Feb. 20.
The BLM received protests on 74 parcels from three entities. After reviewing the protests, BLM deferred 14 parcels pending additional analysis and documentation to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act.
In response to a federal court ruling by Judge Kimball in August of 2006, the BLM will not offer any lands for lease that have been inventoried and determined by BLM to have wilderness characteristics.
BLM is currently reviewing information from wilderness inventories and incorporating it in its land use planning efforts. Leasing decisions for lands that have been determined to have wilderness characteristics will be postponed until additional environmental analysis (NEPA) or planning is complete.
"BLM continues to dedicate itself to conducting the proper environmental analysis prior to offering lands for oil and gas leasing," said Kent Hoffman, Utah BLM deputy state director of lands and minerals. "We have taken a close look at the recent IBLA and federal court rulings and implemented curative actions to address the procedural deficiencies identified in those cases and ensure future leases are in compliance with the rulings."
Utah has the geology and resource potential to attract industry interest in both further developing existing oil and gas fields and exploring for new discoveries statewide. Hoffman noted however, that approximately half of all lands nominated by industry have been deferred from leasing due to a variety of environmental and procedural issues.
BLM's Oil and Gas Leasing program is a vital part of supplying our nation with reliable and affordable energy. The Rocky Mountain region holds the largest on-shore domestic oil and gas reserves in the lower 48, and energy from federally managed sources accounts for more than 30 percent of America's energy production.
Of the 18 million acres available for oil and gas leasing in Utah, less than five million acres are currently leased, compared to the high of 19 million acres under lease during the 1980s (More than 4.7 million acres of BLM managed lands in Utah are off-limits for oil and gas leasing primarily to protect wilderness values).
Less than one percent of public land in Utah receives actual surface disturbance from oil and gas development. To minimize such impacts (the "footprint") on the land, the Bureau analyzes the potential environmental effects from exploration and development before offering any leases for sale. All leases come with stipulations (general requirements) on oil and gas activities to protect the environment; stipulations can also include specific restrictions, such as limits on seasons when drilling can occur and restrictions on surface occupancy by oil and gas operators.
Once an operator proposes exploration or development on a BLM issued lease, the Bureau carries out further environmental analysis and determines the site-specific need for various types of impact-limiting or "mitigation" measures. These measures include designing well locations and infrastructure with final reclamation of the land "up-front"; interim re-vegetation, which controls soil erosion and helps curb the spread of weeds; the strategic placement of above-ground structures and machinery, with colors that blend in with the landscape, so as to reduce visual impacts; the establishment of any necessary buffer zones so that oil and gas activity does not adversely affect certain types of wildlife habitat; and the burying of power lines or pipelines under or adjacent to access roads to protect wildlife and minimize visual impacts.
The BLM carries out its land-management mission under the authority of the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act, which directs the agency to manage the public lands for multiple uses while protecting the natural, historical, and other resources of these lands. The Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 and the 1987 Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act authorize leasing of federal oil and gas resources. The 1987 law, which amended the Mineral Leasing Act, requires each BLM state office to conduct oil and gas lease sales on at least a quarterly basis.
Oil and gas leasing and development must be in compliance with numerous other laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act, National Historic Preservation Act and The Endangered Species Act, just to name a few.