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Proposed BlM oil, gas auction stirs Moab protests

Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 3:33 PM


MOAB — Federal land managers’ proposal to offer up to 28 parcels of public land for potential oil and gas leasing at a February auction is stirring protests from some Grand County residents.

Opponent Kiley Miller said wide-open vistas of an area world renowned for its red rock beauty would be spoiled by oil and gas development.

"Millions of people all over the world love this place," she told the Deseret News ( ). "I don’t think they want to see it contaminated.

"It may be 15 miles away from Arches National Park, but anyone who is there and looks toward the mountains will be able to see them (oil rigs)," Miller added.

She also said water wells that feed an organic farm and subdivisions in the Lisbon Valley south of Moab are at risk if natural gas extraction takes place.

But Bureau of Land Management officials say none of the parcels proposed for leasing overlap aquifers or protection zones, and any leases won through bid do not allow surface disturbances until additional environmental reviews take place.

Shelley Smith, director of the BLM’s Canyon Country District Office in Moab, said the Lisbon Valley is no stranger to industrial development. The Moab field office area has an estimated 317 active wells.

"People believe that oil and gas leasing is a whole new day for Moab, but really it has been part of Moab and Grand County for literally a century," she told the Deseret News.

Smith stressed that awarding a lease does not mean the parcel will be developed for gas or oil extraction. In fact, only one in 10 leases is ever developed, she said.

The BLM is accepting public comments until Oct. 19 on the proposed offering, which involves 51,693 acres. The agency has released an environmental assessment of it for the public to review.

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