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SALT LAKE CITY — The Bureau of Land Management on Monday announced it is planning a December lease of nearly 330,000 acres for potential oil and gas development across the state.
The online auction for industry will be the first statewide event due to a policy change, in contrast to the district-by-district approach the BLM used to take.
The public scoping period ends at 4:30 p.m. July 31, which is a shortened time frame due to changes enacted by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to "streamline" the leasing process.
“The BLM welcomes and encourages public involvement early in the (review) process, as it is an integral part in our evaluation of the proposed lease parcels,” said Kent Hoffman, the agency's deputy state director for lands and minerals. “The most-effective comments will identify issues and concerns specific to the parcels being considered.”
Critics are blasting the decision to put the 231 parcels on the table for potential development because they say many of them are in environmentally sensitive areas unsuitable for industry activity.
"This is what Trump’s ‘energy dominance’ agenda looks like in Utah,” said Steve Bloch, legal director with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.
“Oil and gas operators win. Everyone else loses," Bloch said.
The alliance and other groups say many of the parcels are in the Book Cliffs, White River, Labyrinth Canyon and the Four Corners regions, and the impacts could be severe.
"These sensitive lands should be withdrawn from the lease sale, and the public is entitled to have a meaningful opportunity to weigh in on this bad idea," said Bobby McEnaney, senior director of the "Dirty Energy Project" at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The critics also emphasized the ozone pollution problem in the Uinta Basin, where 100 parcels are planned for lease in that area or nearby.