BLM releases draft EA for proposed oil and gas lease auction
by Lisa J. Church
staff writer
Sep 27, 2012 | 2587 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A land parcel slated to be auctioned for oil and gas development next February has been pulled from the federal lease sale after an analysis by the Bureau of Land Management showed that a small section of the parcel overlapped the water transfer zone that surrounds Moab’s source of drinking water, the Glen Canyon aquifer.

The BLM also deferred several other parcels due to concerns about wildlife habitat and potential impacts to cultural sites and resources and traditional historic properties. In separate draft environmental assessments of the 48 parcels initially proposed for the planned Feb. 19 lease sale, the Moab and Monticello BLM field offices trimmed the list to 39 parcels located in Grand and San Juan counties. The parcels still proposed for auction include 51,593 acres located in the area managed by the BLM Moab Field Office and 12,814.67 acres managed by the Monticello Field Office. Originally, 79,923 acres were proposed for possible oil and gas development.

The proposed leasing of the now-deferred parcel identified as No. 039, and another identified as 042 sparked a petition signature drive by local resident Kiley Miller, who wanted both parcels permanently protected from mineral development due to concerns that the processes of drilling and hydraulic fracturing used in oil and gas development could pollute aquifers that provide water for Moab and residents of Brown’s Hole and Bridger Jack Mesa as well as Miller’s own property on Black Ridge Road, about seven miles south of Moab in San Juan County. Miller’s online petition has so far garnered more than 3,500 signatures. Another petition signature drive launched by the online environmental community CREDO Action and inspired by Miller’s efforts has collected more than 71,000 signatures so far as well as some 50,000 public comments.

Miller said she remains concerned about the possible impacts to water resources, especially since the BLM did not defer parcel No. 042.

“I’m definitely still concerned because 039 was definitely on top of our watershed and Moab’s watershed, but 042 is another 1,800 acres that’s right in my backyard,” Miller said this week. “The water source for my property and people who live in Brown’s Hole, Bridger Jack and Kane Springs is still threatened. I want a moratorium on all of it because I think it’s too dangerous until we find out how the industrialization of the region will affect us all.”

Lisa Bryant, assistant field manager for the Moab BLM, said analysis showed that parcel No. 039 did not extend into the Moab sole source water protection zone, but it did cover a small portion of the outlying water transfer zone. The decision to defer the parcel was also based on issues with topography that would make locating a drill rig on the site difficult, Bryant said. Analysis determined that parcel No. 042 was not located in the water zone.

The BLM’s Moab and Monticello offices released their draft environmental assessments (EA) on Sept. 20. A 30-day public comment period will remain open until Oct. 19, said Katie Stevens, outdoor recreation manager for the BLM Moab Field Office. A final EA will be released for public comment in November.

Stevens and Bryant said the majority of the BLM parcels under lease for mineral development never reach the actual development stage.

“We have some 800,000 acres under lease here and no more than 40,000 are in development,” Stevens said. “The vast number of leases never get developed.”

The Moab EA is available online at www.blm.gov/ut/st/en/fo/moab.html and on the Environmental Notification Bulletin Board at www.blm.gov/ut/enbb/index.php. Hard copies are also available at the Moab BLM Field Office, 82 E. Dogwood. Comments may be mailed to the Moab address, or emailed to BLM_UT_Mb_Comments@blm.gov (include “Lease Sale” in the subject line).

For more information, call the Moab Field Office at 435-259-2100.

The Monticello EA is available online at www.blm.gov/ut/st/en/fo/monticello.html. Comments may be mailed to the Bureau of Land Management, Monticello Field Office, P.O. Box 7, Monticello, UT 84535 (Attn: Cliff Giffen) or faxed to 435-587-1518. Electronic comments may be submitted to: BLM_UT_MT_O&G_Leasing_Comments@blm.gov. Include “February 2013 Oil and Gas Lease Sale” in the subject line.

For more information, contact the Monticello Field Office at 435-587-1500.

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