By Julie Johansen
Jake Palma, NEPA Coordinator for the Bureau of Land Management, explained the purpose of the scoping meeting Thursday evening at the Museum of the San Rafael. He said that it was to create a process to insure orderly, timely, effective and environmentally responsible leasing of oil and gas on the San Rafael Desert. A meeting was also held for the same purpose on Wednesday evening in Green River. Both meetings were a process whereby both internal and external input on the issues or potential alternatives could be considered. Interested individuals were given an opportunity to ask questions and preview plans.
The San Rafael Desert Master Leasing Plan will include 525,000 acres in Emery and Wayne counties. This will include both the Price and Richfield offices of the BLM. The decision will be based on environment assessment and the scope is limited to oil and gas leases only. This plan is to resolve long-standing lease protests as it will help the BLM modify, cancel or lift lease suspensions. These leases were sold in 2003-2004 and 16 were suspended in 2006 after the Kimball decision in court. There were also four leases sold later but never issued. These issues need resolution thus the scoping process is beginning to evaluate standing as well as potential scenarios.
The NEPA scoping will consider the following multiple use criteria questions: is there a substantial portion of the area not currently leased, is industry interested in the area described, is the majority of the area mineral rich, is additional analysis or information needed if development is to occur.
Several resource characteristics will be considered such as air quality, climate change, wilderness characteristics, soundscape, riparian, wildlife and fisheries, among others.
The scoping will continue until July 1 with additional public involvement opportunities as review alternatives until September 2016, public review until March-April 2017 and the protest period will end November 2017.