The Bureau of Land Management released the final environmental assessment for the annual Canyon Country District oil and gas lease sale on Friday, Nov. 17.The oil and gas lease sale is to be held in February 2013.
Parcel No. 42, which was named in a petition for deferment from the oil and gas lease sale list that garnered more 3,600 signatures, still remains on the list.
A 30-day protest period is now open. All comments must be written and received by the state BLM office by 4:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 17. Comments may be hand-delivered, FAXed or mailed.
“We do not accept emailed protest,” said Megan Crandall, Utah BLM spokesperson.
The Canyon Country District oil and gas lease sale list includes 41 proposed parcels totaling 63,909 acres. Of these, 37 parcels covering 59,525 acres are located in the Moab and Monticello Field Offices. The four remaining parcels cover 4,384 acres on the Manti-La Sal National Forest.
Kiley Miller lives south of Moab near two of the originally proposed parcels, No. 39 and No. 42. She has been actively encouraging the public to speak up regarding oil and gas development in the area.
She delivered nearly 76,000 signatures petitioning the oil and gas lease sale on Friday, Oct. 19, the final day of public comment for the draft environmental assessment.
Miller started a petition opposing oil and gas development in the Moab area that was able to gather more than 3,600 signatures.
“My petition was more about the region: La Sal, Monticello, Lisbon Valley,” Miller said.
Credo Action saw Miller’s petition and interviewed her.
“They said ‘we’re going to do a petition’,” Miller said. “It did well in Utah. Then they released it nationally.”
Credo Action’s petition, titled “Protect Arches and Canyonlands from fracking”, garnered more than 72,000 signatures.
Parcel No. 39 near Miller’s home had been previously removed from the lease sale list, “because a small portion of it was in a Drinking Water Protection Zone,” said Katie Stevens, Moab BLM Field Office.
Miller now collects rain water and hauls water to her home. She is considering drilling a water well in the future. While parcel No. 42 is adjacent to the Moab Watershed boundary, Miller is concerned that should she drill for water on her property, oil or gas development could directly affect her water.
“It is directly on top of my watershed,” Miller said. “It’s right on top where our water would be.”
She has hired an attorney who is now looking over documents regarding the parcel.
“I am sad and angry that the BLM completely disregards the will of the people especially in regards to parcel No. 42,” Miller said. “The 2005 Energy Policy Act is the most destructive thing that Congress has ever initiated on the American public. It is also a sham. This policy is about maximizing corporate profits with public resources at the expense of clean air and clean water.”
Laurel Hagen, executive director of the Canyonlands Watershed Council, sent maps to the BLM showing watersheds she said need to be protected.
She said parcel No. 42 would be in the protection zone for San Juan County water.
“The BLM should defer that parcel until the state engineer issues a decision on San Juan County wells in that area,” she said.
Hagen said she plans to protest the sale of parcel No. 42.
“It is close to a water protection zone, but not in it,” Hagen said of results of the final environmental assessment.
Hagen was also concerned about parcel No. 54 in San Juan County.
“No. 54 lies on top of the source protection zone for Monticello’s drinking water. Monticello isn’t using it for drinking water now, but it is classified as a drinking water source,” she said. No. 54 was deferred because it was within a water surface zone.
She also expressed concerns about parcels No. 52 and No 119 due to concerns regarding drinking water.
“It (No. 52) is near private property. If developed, they would be drilling in peoples’ backyards,” Hagen said. Parcel No. 119 is only a half-mile from the La Sal Elementary school well. “It’s directly upstream from their water.”
Parcels No. 52 and 119 were removed from the lease sale, but due to concerns of Gunnison sage grouse broods.
Hagen said the public needs to be vigilant regarding lease sales. She said she felt the local BLM office has been responsive so far.
“It is just a matter of us letting them know we’re concerned and getting the information they need so they will make the right decisions,” Hagen said. “They didn’t know about the Monticello water source until I sent them the map.”
Crandall encouraged those who want to file a protest to read the environmental assessment and evaluate it.
“Leasing reform allows for this protest period; to allow everyday folks be part of this process,” Crandall said.
She stressed that it is important to share new or technical information, instead sending a protest that states a preference or an opinion.
“It comes down to the parcel and the protest. If we have a protest that lays out significant information, we will defer it through due process,” Crandall said. “We take new information into consideration.”
The state BLM office will then review the additional public comment before arriving on a final decision on Dec. 17 for parcels to be available during the oil and gas lease sale Feb. 19, 2013.
“Not every parcel we put up for auction sells,” said Don Ogaard, chief of the Utah BLM leasing support team. “Most of the leases we sell are not developed.”