Natural Gas and Oil Leases – Controversy in Utah

Should we allow natural gas drilling within a few miles of some of the West’s most iconic national parks? This is one of the many questions the current administration is wrestling with, inheriting a legacy of what many Western citizens – Democrats and Republicans alike – consider to be years of unbalanced, pro-industry decisions and regulations by federal land management agencies.

Drilling leases (red) just 3 miles from Arches National Park

SkyTruth has produced a gallery of images showing the locations of 77 leases for natural gas and oil drilling, on public land in Utah, that were auctioned off to the oil and gas industry by the Bureau of Land Management in December 2008. These leases were suspended by the federal government in February 2009 pending further review by the Department of the Interior, after receiving over 1,600 complaints from environmental groups, the Outdoor Industry Association, sportsmen organizations, and a collection of river runners, guides, and outfitters.

Several of the leases are adjacent to, or within a few miles of, Dinosaur National Monument, Canyonlands National Park, and Arches National Park.

We’ve included a few images showing current drilling operations in nearby parts of the Uinta Basin, to give you an idea of how severely the suspended areas could be altered if Interior decides to go ahead and approve the leases.

Typical network of drilling locations, roads and pipelines, and wastewater holding ponds associated with natural gas drilling, seen here in the nearby Uinta Basin of central Utah

Get more background info on drilling in Utah, and keep up with the latest on this issue, at the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance website. Because this fight isn’t over yet — some of these leases may get reinstated.