BLM's Utah plans on shaky legal ground

 

It's amazing how quickly things can change. In the last week, we've watched Barack Obama take his (slightly bungled) presidential oath of office and George W. Bush helicopter back to Crawford, Tex. In the last month, we High Country News-ers were busy reporting on all the speedy and sweeping changes that Bush made on his way out the door. Many people have pinned their hopes on Obama to reverse those last-minute actions (indeed, he's already gotten started). But now it appears some of Bush's changes will turn around relatively quickly without any help from the new administration.

On Jan. 17, federal District Judge Ricardo Urbina granted a temporary restraining order blocking 77 controversial oil and gas leases covering more than 103,000 acres in eastern and southeastern Utah, the Salt Lake Tribune reports:

Should Urbina continue to rule in favor of the seven conservation and historic-preservation organizations that sued to stop the (Dec. 19) BLM auction (where the leases were sold), the land-use plans that were the bedrock of the lease sale ultimately could crumble.

The Salt Lake paper is referring to three of six such plans, covering millions of acres of Utah, that the agency rushed out (ostensibly to get them finalized before Bush left office) last year. As HCN reported back in October, those plans represent a massive public lands giveaway to oil and gas; the BLM's hurry made it difficult for members of the public and other federal land agencies to protest. On top of that, as HCN reported in January, the Environmental Protection Agency accused several offices of the Utah BLM of failing to account for the air pollution that will be generated by oil and gas development under the new plans.

Urbina's ruling, which finds that the conservation and historic preservation groups who sued the BLM are likely to succeed on the merits of their case, seems to vindicate the EPA:

By not engaging in quantitative ozone dispersion modeling, the plaintiffs’ point out that BLM is unable to assess the concentration of pollution in the air and therefore cannot adequately measure those pollutants which are expressed in ambient concentrations . . . BLM cannot rely on (Environmental Impact Statement)s that lack air pollution and ozone level statistics.

. . .

Finally, although the court recognizes that the “development of domestic energy
resources,” is an important public interest. . ., this interest is far outweighed by the public interest in avoiding irreparable damage to public lands and the environment is preferable in this instance. 

 


High Country News Classifieds
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Executive Director Position Announcement POSITION TITLE: Executive Director ORGANIZATION: Friends of Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument REPORTING TO: Board of Directors EMPLOYMENT TYPE: Part-time - Full-time, based...
  • HEALTHY CITIES PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    The Healthy Cities Program Director leads and manages the Healthy Cities Program for the Arizona Chapter and is responsible for developing and implementing innovative, high...
  • CONSERVATION PROGRAM MANAGER
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners (GSEP) Conservation Programs Manager Job Opening Our Mission: Honoring the past and safeguarding the future of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument through...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners (GSEP) Associate Director Job Posting Our Mission: Honoring the past and safeguarding the future of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument through science,...
  • UNIQUE, ENERGY-EFFICIENT HOME ON ACREAGE NEAR MOSCOW, IDAHO
    Custom-built energy-efficient 3000 sqft two-story 3BR home, 900 sqft 1 BR accessory cottage above 2-car garage and large shop. Large horse barn. $1,200,000. See online...
  • OUTDOOR ADVENTURE BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Missoula Outdoor Learning Adventures (MOLA) - established and profitable outdoor adventure & education business in Missoula, Montana. Summer camp, raft & climb guide, teen travel,...
  • OJO SARCO FARM/HOME
    A wonderful country setting for a farm/work 1350s.f. frame home plus 1000 studio/workshop. 5 acres w fruit trees, an irrigation well, pasture and a small...
  • STEWARDSHIP COORDINATOR
    Join Skagit Land Trust (the Trust), a not-for-profit conservation organization based in Mount Vernon, Washington, and help protect land for people and wildlife. Skagit Land...
  • 2022 SEASONAL SCIENCE EDUCATOR
    The Mount St. Helens Institute Science Educator supports our science education and rental programs including day and overnight programs for youth ages 6-18, their families...
  • POLICY DIRECTOR
    Heart of the Rockies Initiative is seeking a Policy Director to lead and define policy efforts to advance our mission to keep working lands and...
  • CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER
    Self-Help Enterprises seeks an experienced and strategic CFO
  • CONSERVATION SPECIALIST - LAND PROTECTION FOCUS
    View full job description and how to apply at
  • RIVER EDUCATOR & GUIDE
    River Educator & Guide River Educator & Guide (Trip Leader) Non-exempt, Seasonal Position: Full-time OR part-time (early April through October; may be flexible with start/end...
  • LAND AND WATER CONSERVATION DIRECTOR
    The Land and Water Conservation Director is a full-time salaried position with the Mountain Area Land Trust in Evergreen, CO. The successful candidate will have...
  • FOOD SYSTEMS ENVIRONMENTAL FELLOWSHIP
    If you were to design a sustainable society from the ground up, it would look nothing like the contemporary United States. But what would it...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT) is seeking an Executive Director who will lead RiGHT toward a future of continued high conservation impact, organizational...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    Help protect Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, & unique quality of life. Work hard, meet good people, make the world a better place!...
  • NEW BOOK:
    True Wildlife Tales From Boy to Man. Finding my voice to save wildlife in the Apache spirit. 365+ vivid colorful pictures. Buy on Amazon/John Wachholz
  • CHIEF OPERATIONS OFFICER
    with Rural Community Assistance Corporation. Apply here: https://www.marcumllp.com/executive-search/chief-operations-officer-rcac
  • CARPENTER WANTED
    CARPENTER WANTED. Come to Ketchikan and check out the Rainforest on the coast, Hike the shorelines, hug the big trees, watch deer in the muskeg...