Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Report disputes Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's claims of 'rushed' energy leases in Utah

An investigative report by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's own Office of Inspector General disputes his claims that oil and gas parcels offered for lease at a controversial December 2008 auction in Salt Lake City were "rushed." Salazar used that reason to justify pulling 77 parcels that had been bid on in the Bureau of Land Management auction, asserting that they were offered as a result of a rushed midnight decision by the Bush administration. The report released Monday said an investigation "found no evidence to support the allegation that undue pressure was exerted on BLM personnel" to complete the resource management plans so the parcels could be offered prior to a change in the White House administration. It did note, however, that the BLM contributed to the "perception" that the lease-sale was rushed because the agency failed to notify the National Park Service in advance, as is standard, and refused to defer parcels on which the service sought additional reviews for their eligibility. Arguing that too many of the parcels were located on the doorsteps of national treasures such as Arches National Park, Salazar rescinded the leases, leading to an uproar in Utah by county officials and state policymakers, who said the move cost millions in lost revenue and usurped a lengthy review process...more

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