Interior Department Proposes First Master Leasing Plan in Utah for Balanced Energy Development, Conservation

Release Date: 08/14/15
Contacts: Jessica Kershaw , Interior_press@ios.doi.gov
Megan Crandall , BLM-UT, 801-539-4013

Draft Moab Master Leasing Plan Takes Landscape-level Approach to Minimize Conflicts, Facilitate Responsible Energy Development

WASHINGTON – As part of the Department of the Interior’s commitment to responsible and balanced domestic energy development, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today announced a draft Master Leasing Plan (MLP) for public lands in east-central Utah, the first such plan in the state. The draft Moab MLP will serve as a roadmap to facilitate balanced and orderly leasing and development of energy resources on public lands while protecting important conservation areas that support outdoor recreation opportunities for local communities and their visitors.

“Moab has some of the most iconic scenery on the Colorado Plateau, but it is also rich with energy resources, so we need to take a landscape-level approach to minimize potential resource conflicts,” said Secretary Jewell. “As the first Master Leasing Plan in Utah, this collaborative planning process should serve as a model for how communities can work together to balance development with protecting world-class environmental, cultural and recreational resources.”

MLPs were launched by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in May 2010 as part of a sweeping oil and gas leasing reform initiative to address a leasing system that was close to the breaking point with nearly half of all proposed parcels receiving community protests and a substantial proportion resulting in litigation. The plans establish a framework for determining which areas are appropriate for responsible exploration and development of oil and gas resources while protecting the area’s conservation resources. The reforms were designed to encourage stakeholder input early in the planning process, which reduces protests and litigation and provides developers with greater certainty.

The proposed Moab MLP exemplifies the thoughtful planning and intensive analysis that can be achieved through a robust and collaborative process. In crafting the Moab MLP, the BLM brought together a diverse set of stakeholders, including local community members, industry representatives, recreation enthusiasts, tribes, and other interested parties from across the country; and worked closely with the National Park Service, Environmental Protection Agency, and other state and local agencies in the planning process. The BLM also solicited public feedback on preliminary alternatives and held public meetings.

The plan, which will be published August 21 in the Federal Register and be open to a 90-day public comment period, incorporates a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and draft amendments to the Resource Management Plans (RMP) for the Moab and Monticello Field Offices in the BLM’s Canyon Country District.

The MLP and draft amendments analyze oil, gas and potash development on 946,469 acres of land in Utah’s Grand and San Juan counties (785,567 acres of BLM-administered land, and 160,902 acres of state, private, and split estate land). Major land uses in the planning area include a wide array of private and commercial recreation activities, oil and gas production, mining and livestock grazing. Recreational use of these BLM lands, which contain a vast variety of arches, natural bridges, mesas, and spires, draws two million visitors a year and supports hundreds of local jobs and the bulk of the local business community. Some of the area also holds significance for Native American tribes of the region.

The BLM also announced that it would initiate the 524,854-acre San Rafael Desert MLP and the 320,000-acre Cisco Desert MLP in fall 2015. In all, the BLM has completed, or begun work on, nearly a dozen MLP areas in Wyoming, Colorado and Utah.

“The BLM is proud of the work we do to facilitate robust and responsible energy development on public lands,” said BLM Director Neil Kornze. “We have a basic responsibility to work with local stakeholders to ensure that conflicts related to natural and cultural resources are dealt with up front.”

The BLM in recent years has presided over record increases in oil production from public lands. Of lands requiring a BLM drilling permit, oil production last year had risen 81 percent since 2008, to 205 million barrels. Last year, the BLM approved 4,400 drilling permits, nearly one and a half times as many permits as the industry actually used. There are 6,000 drilling permits in industry’s hands, ready to be used — nearly two years’ worth of drilling at current rates. Currently, 34 million acres of public lands are under lease to oil and gas companies — an area nearly the size of Florida — and last year the BLM offered 5.7 million acres to industry, five times the acreage industry actually bid on.

The BLM previously finalized the North Park, Colorado, MLP on July 8, 2015,

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