SALAZAR HALTS UTAH DRILLING

$6M TO BE RETURNED TO BIDDERS ON LEASES

A drill rig about 5 miles from the north end of the Island in the Sky section of Canyonlands National Park



The federal government will return about $6 million it received from oil and gas producers who won bids on 77 parcels in a lease sale in Utah last year.

The lease sale was disrupted by environmental activist Tim DeChristopher, who offered the high bids on 13 of those parcels but said he had no immediate intention to pay for them.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Wednesday he pulled all 77 parcels from the sale because of their proximity to “some of our nation’s icons,” including Arches and Canyonlands national parks, Dinosaur National Monument and Nine Mile Canyon, all in eastern Utah.

Salazar, a former Colorado senator, said the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Utah was considering what actions, if any, to take against DeChristopher, but he was not at liberty to discuss DeChristopher’s legal fate.

The money paid on the high bids for the 77 leases will be returned through the normal channels of the Bureau of Land Management, which administers those lands and conducted the lease sale, Salazar said.

DeChristopher offered bids of $1.8 million on the 13 parcels.

It remains possible the Interior Department might once again offer some or all of the 77 parcels for lease, Salazar said.

His decision had no effect on 116 parcels that also were sold in the Dec. 19 lease sale, Salazar said.

He rejected the bids on the 77 parcels because of questions regarding air-quality issues arising from drilling on leases and “concerns about the degree of consultation with the National Park Service” by the bureau, Salazar said.


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