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Washington Office Public Affairs
Release Date: 06/10/09
Contacts: Matt Lee-Ashley , Depatment of Interior , 202-208-6416

Interior Review Shines Light on Controversial Utah Oil and Gas Leases

WASHINGTON, DC -- A report released today by the U.S. Department of the Interior reveals flaws in the process through which a controversial set of oil and gas leases were offered in Utah in the waning days of the previous Administration, including several near Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, and Dinosaur National Monument.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, who commissioned the report from a team led by Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes, agreed with the report’s recommendations, and has directed several follow-up actions, including directing that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), in coordination with other federal and state agencies, formulate a comprehensive air quality strategy for the region and to form a special BLM team to conduct a final decision-making review of the 77 parcels in question. The report groups the parcels into categories, noting that some of the parcels, particularly those in areas with existing oil and gas development, may be appropriate for development after a final review. Other parcels in and near sensitive landscapes will require a more extensive, site-specific review.

To read the full report, recommendations, and associated maps, click here.

"This report helps us unwind the problems that landed these 77 parcels in court with a temporary injunction," said Secretary Salazar. "It is clear that in the rush to sell the leases, the previous Administration bypassed normal reviews and consultations with the National Park Service. Only when the light of public scrutiny was shed on the situation did they reconsider some of the most problematic leases, but many of the 77 parcels that were auctioned off are close to National Park units and even closer to other sensitive, world-class landscapes including Desolation Canyon and Nine Mile Canyon."

On January 17, 2009, a federal district court enjoined the U.S. Department of the Interior from entering into oil and gas leases for 77 parcels in Utah that had been included in a December 19, 2008 auction. The court entered a temporary injunction against the sale of the parcels after concluding that plaintiffs had established "a likelihood of success on the merits" regarding their claims that the proposed lease sales violated the National Environmental Policy Act, the Federal Land Management Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act.

On February 6, 2009, Secretary Ken Salazar concluded that the issues raised by the court, along with other concerns that had been raised about the lease sale, merited a special review. Accordingly, Secretary Salazar directed that the leases be withdrawn from further processing and he subsequently requested that Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes lead a Departmental team that would evaluate the lease sale and make recommendations regarding the matter.

The Hayes Report released today is based on a review of the administrative record that accompanied the auction of the 77 parcels; an inspection of the parcels in question via overflight or on-the-ground inspection; interviews of BLM, National Park Service (NPS), and other Interior Department officials who were involved in lease-related decision-making; a listening session with state and local officials and representatives, followed by a public town hall meeting for interested members of the public (held in Vernal, Utah on May 26); and conference calls with industry representatives and conservationists.

The Hayes Report made several recommendations, all of which Secretary Salazar has directed to be implemented, including:

  • That BLM work more closely with the National Park Service to avoid a repeat of last fall’s inappropriate public listing of parcels adjacent to three National Park units for oil and gas leasing;
  •  That a special BLM team be created to make final decisions regarding potential reoffering of some of the 77 parcels for oil and gas leasing. The review team grouped the parcels in several categories, noting that some parcels, such as those in current production areas, appear to be appropriate for oil and gas leasing, while other parcels will need more extensive review; and
  • That BLM initiate a comprehensive air quality strategy for the region, in consultation with the National Park Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, and state officials.
  • That Interior issue guidance to assist BLM officials in making leasing decisions on lands that are near parks and other sensitive landscapes, including parcels that have wilderness characteristics or other values that may not be consistent with oil and gas development;

The Hayes Report is available online at

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM's mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. In Fiscal Year 2015, the BLM generated $4.1 billion in receipts from activities occurring on public lands.

Last updated: 10-20-2009