Petitions protesting oil and gas lease delivered to BLM office
by Steve Kadel
staff writer
Oct 25, 2012 | 1441 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Opponents of a proposed lease sale of oil and gas exploration on public lands south of Moab filed two petitions they say contain a total of 76,000 signatures from people urging the Bureau of Land Management to halt the sale.

Kiley Miller gave the material to BLM Resource Adviser Brent Northrup on Friday, Oct. 19.

Miller said during an interview that the signatures came from “all over the world.” They were gathered with help from online registration forms.

Miller, whose home in San Juan County is near one of the proposed parcels, said oil and gas exploration could contaminate the region’s water source, air and private water wells.

A half-dozen lease sale opponents came to the BLM office to present the petitions. One woman carried a sign that read, “Protect air and water – not pollute.”

Some 39 oil and gas leases are scheduled for a mid-February auction. The leases cover nearly 80,000 acres in Grand and San Juan counties.

Miller acknowledged that the BLM has removed some parcels from the proposed lease auction, but said a parcel known as 042 – about 13 miles south of Moab – remains a concern for its possible effects on Moab and northern San Juan County drinking water.

“Several of the parcels proposed for auction are either overlapping or immediately adjacent to wells and reservoirs that are the sole drinking water source for thousands of people,” Laurel Hagen of the Moab-based Canyonlands Watershed Council said in a news release. “Two parcels west of Monticello are right over the reservoir protection zone, the parcel south of Moab is within the aquifer recharge area for several proposed county wells, and the parcel near La Sal is less than half a mile from the well at the elementary school.”

Some opponents cite concerns with lowering local air quality, due primarily to energy development and production in the Canyonlands region, according to the news release.

“Though the valleys where people live are much more susceptible to air pollution, the BLM is basing its claims of acceptable risks to air quality on the only monitoring station, which is up in Canyonlands National Park,” said Michael Carter of the local chapter of Deep Green Resistance. “And even that isolated station has registered levels close to violating air quality standards.”

“In places like Lisbon Valley, which is a sacrifice zone for mining and drilling, all of these impacts to air and soil and wildlife are adding up. And several of the smaller parcels are near full-time residences and pose an immediate risk to human health,” Miller said.

She started the petition effort with Credo Action Network, and Food and Water Watch has since joined the effort, Miller said. 

Lisa Bryan, assistant field manager for the Moab BLM office, said a draft environmental assessment on the lease project has been issued. A 30-day comment period ended Oct. 19, the day the petitions were delivered.

“We will take those comments and will respond to substantial comments after taking all the comments into consideration,” Bryant said.

A final environmental assessment and a decision on whether to proceed with the lease auction should be issued within one to two months, she said.

“That will initiate the protest period,” Bryant said, adding that the BLM “may still drop some” parcels from the auction.

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