Monday, November 28, 2011

BLM auction in Salt Lake City will test new environmental reforms

This month's federal oil and gas lease auction will be a crucial first test in Utah of new environmental mandates implemented by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Even though the 11 parcels snatched up by a pair of companies have gone through environmental analysis by the Bureau of Land Management prior to the auction, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and other groups lodged a protest. That protest could result in a courtroom battle where a judge would determine if the BLM did an adequate amount of review up front. "This is the best sale we've had as far as the maximum price per acre," said Kent Hoffman, the agency's deputy director of the land and minerals division. Hoffman said the parcels offered this month have been altered since the 2008 auction, with some changes made that include considerations for sage grouse habitat. The 2010 reforms are resulting in a much longer period of time for parcels to be offered at auction, though industry interest is on the uptick, Hoffman said. Hoffman said an indication of that agency slowdown is the disparity between the number of parcels the industry nominates for possible development and the actual number of parcels the agency is able to release for bid — which is substantially lower...more

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