In December, environmentalists and climate change activists gathered to protest a particularly objectionable Bureau of Land Management (BLM) oil & gas lease sale.
Under the Trump administration policy of “energy dominance,” the U.S. Department of the Interior is fast-tracking oil and gas leasing on federal public lands using online auctions and new rules designed to eliminate environmental review and prevent public input.
The December 2018 lease sale was particularly bad news. Outgoing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke reduced the public comment period from the usual 30 days to just 10 days. Many protested parcels were leased for development, including land within 10 miles of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, land near Bears Ears and Hovenweep National Monuments, and parcels near the White River and the Green River in Labyrinth Canyon.
While BLM boasts about how much money the lease sale brought in, in fact there is already a glut of undeveloped leases in Utah and many parcels were sold much too cheaply. In 2018 alone, BLM leased more than 420,000 acres of Utah public lands for industrial development. Although this development won’t happen all at once, stockpiled oil and gas leases constitute a time bomb that could be ignited by high oil prices.
Groups protesting under-regulated leasing include Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity and Wasatch Rising Tide.