Local County Commissioners Express Frustrations Concerning Oil and Gas Lease Deferments

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County Commissioners in Carbon and Emery counties were taken off guard last week when they read about a deferment of oil and gas leases that had been expected to go up for sale this week.

On Nov 19 the BLM issued the following press release:

On Nov. 19, 2013, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Utah will offer 35 parcels covering 44,021 acres in the Price and Vernal Field Offices at its quarterly oil and gas lease sale.  After thorough review and consideration, the BLM Utah decided to defer 99,960 acres from the sale to provide additional time to address concerns including cultural resources, sensitive species, and potential impacts to the Old Spanish Trail.

“We are committed to responsible development of energy resources on Utah’s public lands,” said BLM-Utah State Director Juan Palma.  “We are deferring these particular lands from the upcoming sale to provide for additional review and consideration of the potential impacts leasing poses to natural and cultural resources.”

Most of the parcels that are being deferred at this time are in Emery County, but a few are in the Carbon County borders. Emery County Commissioner Jeff Horrocks said that Palma did call on Friday to speak with him, but that he was out of the area attending meetings and learned about it through the media like everyone else.

He was not happy that the BLM did not bother to contact them ahead of time. He has since spoken to Palma and was told that the deferments were related to an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that the park service is working on to identify the Old Spanish Trail. No time frame was given as to when those parcels will be available for lease. Horrocks is hoping that the remaining parcels available will sell without any further appeals. He stated that this decision will have a pretty big impact on the economy of the area.

“Our hope is that the local authorities will be directly involved in any further negotiations or actions taken by the BLM,” Horrocks said.

Carbon County Commissioners read it online and in the newspapers as well and felt blindsided by the BLM.  Commissioners John Jones, Casey Hopes and Jae Potter all expressed the same frustration that they were not given any advanced call or notification about the decision.

“I am amazed that they could yank these leases without even a phone call to us locally,” stated Jones on Monday. “It is just another move from the top side down with no consideration of the county plan.”

Hopes was equally frustrated.

“On one hand they attack coal and then they pull these leases out from under our feet. There were good jobs involved. We didn’t even get the courtesy of a phone call.”

Potter added, “we don’t even know where we are at with things and we are all very frustrated.

By Monday afternoon Carbon County had been able to get the map of the leases up for sale and the ones deferred. Hopes was glad to see most leases in Carbon County were still on the table, but said it didn’t do too much to ease the pain. Though most of the land affected was across the county border he said both counties economies are hurt when this type of thing happens.

Hopes said that despite the frustrations that came from the lack of notice by the BLM on this action, the county will continue to look for ways to work with the BLM and federal government to develop the energy resources of the area.

“We want to work together on these issues because our economy depends on us finding ways to collaborate and work as a team,” he added.

The map outlining the areas affected in Emery County can be viewed by clicking here.

At the sale on Tuesday the BLM sold 29 of the offered parcels, receiving $3,340,266.50 in bonus bids.  The sale also brought in $54,724.50 in rental fees and $4,495 in administrative fees, grossing $3,399,486 in total receipts.

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