Oil and gas opponents will have to move faster

  The Bureau of Land Management is shortening the amount of time that citizens and environmental groups in Wyoming and Utah will have to protest oil and gas lease sales, and is in the process of formulating a new nationwide policy for such protests.

In Wyoming, the BLM posts notices of which parcels will be leased 45 days prior to each lease auction; people with concerns about particular leases can file protests up to 4 p.m. the day before the sale. Under the new regulations, however, the protest period will be cut off 15 days prior to the sale. That will give BLM staff time to resolve protested leases, says Pamela Lewis, the chief of fluid minerals adjudication for the BLM in Wyoming.

In Utah, the agency currently posts sale notices 60 days in advance, and cuts off protests 15 days before the sale. Beginning with the auction this August, however, the agency will end the protest period 30 days before the sale.

"They shortened the protest period on the tail end," says Bruce Pendery, an attorney for the Wyoming Outdoor Council. He says that several groups have asked the BLM to provide "more notice to us on the front end of things. We don’t object to (BLM) having more time to look our protests over, but we still need adequate time to look at the lease parcels."