One parcel proposed for oil and gas development has been dropped from the Bureau of Land Management February lease sale after an environmental analysis showed that a sliver of the parcel was within the Moab watershed.
The analysis of 28 Bureau of Land Management parcels proposed for oil and gas development is now available for public review. The public comment period is open between now and Oct. 19.
Forty-eight parcels that total 79,923 acres from the Dolores Triangle through Lisbon Valley were originally under consideration for the February 2013 lease sale. Twenty of the original parcels were deferred and will not be available during the lease sale. The remaining 28 parcels now under review contain 51,693 acres.
Kiley Miller expressed concerned about two of the originally proposed parcels, No. 39 and No. 42, which are near her home south of Moab. She started a petition protesting oil and gas development on these parcels titled “Protect the Moab Region Watersheds and Clean Air”, which now has over 3,500 signatures.
One of the parcels was deferred. The other is still under consideration for oil and gas development.
“Parcel No. 39 was removed from the lease sale because a small portion of it was in a Drinking Water Protection Zone,” said Katie Stevens, Moab BLM Field Office. “No. 42 still remains among the parcels being analyzed.”
Miller is concerned about potential oil and gas development in the area.
“I am even more scared now that I see the leases broken down into specific parcels. It is disturbing to see how large they are and how close they are to Moab, La Sal and the Dolores Triangle area and within a mile of the Dolores River,” Miller said. “I feel as if this region is on the brink of an oil and gas industrialization explosion, a natural gas revolution. All this acreage in just this one sale, what will next year be like? These massive sales are putting us all in danger by contaminating our air water. This is not a responsible use of our public lands.”
There are several steps to complete before the parcels are available for bid in February. The first step was publicly announcing the parcels for consideration in July. The BLM invited comments from the public during the scoping period, which ended Aug. 13.
Now that the draft environmental assessment is completed, it is available for review and a 30-day comment period is now open. Public comments must be received by Oct. 21 to be considered in the final environmental assessment.
“When we get comments, we have to consider them,” said BLM Moab Field Office Manager Rock Smith. “If the comments have merit, it might change the Environmental Assessment.”
Comments can be mailed or hand delivered to the Moab BLM office, or submitted online or through email.
“Public comment is most useful it if points to issues with the actual analysis. Pure expression of opinion, such as ‘I hate oil and gas development’, isn’t as useful. Comments that point to specific points and facts are most useful. Statements of preferences and opinion are not something we can really respond to,” said Don Ogaard, chief of the Utah BLM leasing support team.
The comments assist in the drafting of the final environmental assessment.
“We’ll take those comments, analyze, prepare responses to comments and modify the draft EA as necessary,” Ogaard said.
The final environmental assessment will have the public comments included and should be available by Nov. 16.
When the final environmental assessment is available in November, it opens another opportunity for the public to respond. Ogaard said this is the 30-day protest period, which ends. Dec. 17.
The BLM offices will then review the additional public comment before arriving on a final decision for parcels to be available during the oil and gas lease sale Feb. 19, 2013.
“Not every parcel we put up for auction sells. Most of the leases we sell are not developed,” Ogaard said. “If some of these leases were issued, there would be moderately to highly restrictive stipulations.”
Those stipulations include: how large of an area can be disturbed, reclamation planning, timing restrictions to protect wildlife, and the need to protect riparian habitats and fragile soils. Ogaard said some leases would have the limitation of no surface occupancy, and an oil and gas company would have to access from somewhere off the lease.
“If sometime before 10 years is up they establish production, the lease is good as long as production is maintained,” Ogaard said.