BLM pulls drilling parcel from Moab | SierraSun.com

BLM pulls drilling parcel from Moab

The Associated Press

AP PhotoTourists sit quietly as they view Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Utah, in August 2000. Two months before President George W. Bush leaves office, two federal agencies are bickering over the proposed lease of more than 50,000 acres of oil and gas parcels alongside or within view of three of Utah's redrock national parks.

SALT LAKE CITY ” An oil-and-gas lease parcel that overlaps Moab’s golf course and a residential area and may have threatened the town’s drinking water will be pulled from a government auction list.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management said it was pulling the parcel following the objections of local governments and homeowners who don’t want drilling to occur under their land, where the government owns the subsurface mineral rights.

The BLM said it recognized the conflicts with the so-called “split estates.”

The agency also pulled the parcel because of Moab’s concerns that drilling under the tract could intersect and pollute an aquifer that is the town’s only source of drinking water, agency spokeswoman Mary Wilson said.

“We heard about the split estate, the neighborhood and the aquifer, and decided that parcel will be pulled,” Wilson said Wednesday.

The announcement came in a statement late Tuesday from BLM state director Selma Sierra.

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Sierra also said she was taking another look at oil-and-gas parcels the BLM is offering alongside or within view of Arches National Park and two other redrock national areas in Utah: Dinosaur National Monument and Canyonlands National Park.

The proposed sale of those parcels angered the National Park Service, which has demanded they be pulled from an auction set for Dec. 19. One parcel is just 1.3 miles away and visible from Delicate Arch, the signature landmark of Arches National Park.

A meeting of officials from both agencies has been set for Nov. 24 to settle the dispute, Wilson said.

“We also continue to work with our sister agency, the National Park Service, to further refine these lease offerings and clarify protections offered on each lease parcel,” Sierra said in the statement.

That means the BLM might pull those parcels, though no assurances have been made, Wilson said.

Sierra said her agency never intended to allow oil or gas drillers to occupy any of the parcels next to national parks or in Moab. Instead, they’d would be required to reach the parcels from another pad, using directional drilling.

But Moab Mayor Dave Sakrison said any kind of drilling under his town’s Spanish Valley parcel would have threatened the aquifer, a water source he said was certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as pristine.

Moab was preparing to file an official protest with the BLM that became unnecessary when the agency agreed to pull the parcel.

Moab is 315 miles southeast of Salt Lake City.