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Hatch, Bennett ask for release of report

A gas well in northern Carbon County works to supply coal bed methane to a Questar Pipeline nearby.

United States Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Bob Bennett (R-Utah) are urging Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to make public the Inspector General's report on the Obama administration's decision last year to cancel 77 oil and gas leases in Utah.

In their July 9, 2010, letter to Salazar, Hatch and Bennett noted that the Interior Department's IG Report that examined the Bureau of Land Management's December 2008 sale of those oil and gas leases reportedly found nothing wrong, and asked the Interior Secretary to make the report publicly available.

"It has been brought to our attention that the [Interior] Department's Inspector General has issued an investigative report related to the lease sale that indicates that it is the Inspector General's conclusion that no inappropriate actions occurred in relation to the sale. This appears to run counter to the justifications that we have been given in the past for the administration's decision to cancel the oil and gas leases," the senators wrote.

"Given the uncertainty of oil and natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico right now, we believe that it is essential that Congress, in exercising its oversight responsibilities, be given access to these documents so that it may draw its own conclusions about the importance of producing oil and natural gas from federal lands," the senators stated in the letter.

Salazar's February 2009 decision to rescind the leases, after the 77 parcels were auctioned by the BLM and paid for, and following years of environmental studies and reviews by the Interior Department's own land managers, has nearly halted oil exploration on Utah's public lands. Hatch, Bennett and other members of the Senate Western Caucus roundly condemned the decision and in May 2009, Carbon, Uintah and Duchesne counties joined energy companies in filing a lawsuit against the Interior Department.

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