Salazar sued for revoking oil, gas leases in Utah | AspenTimes.com
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Salazar sued for revoking oil, gas leases in Utah

Paul FoyThe Associated PressAspen, CO Colorado

SALT LAKE CITY Drilling companies suing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar say the oil-and-gas lease parcels he scrapped are up to 60 miles from national parks in Utah.Salazar voided 77 of the leases auctioned off by former President George W. Bush’s administration in December because, he said, they were at the doorstep to Utah’s redrock parks.Lawyers for drillers who filed a federal lawsuit late Wednesday say Salazar was misled about the proximity of the parcels to Arches and Canyonlands national parks and Dinosaur National Monument. Three of Utah’s counties filed a separate lawsuit challenging Salazar’s decision.One of the plaintiffs, Denver-based Questar Exploration & Production Co., contends every one of the yanked parcels was adjacent to an existing and valid lease parcel. The company says that disputes environmentalists’ claims that the 77 parcels would encroach on wild areas of Utah or despoil views from the national parks.”This story has not been told until now,” said Jay B. Neese, executive vice president of Questar’s gas-producing division. “The withdrawn lease parcels had been open for leasing for the last 30 years, and many of these parcels contained rights of way for roads, transmission lines, and pipelines.”Also suing are Denver-based Impact Energy Resources LLC and Peak Royalty Holdings LLC of Heber City.Both companies are independent drillers and not just land speculators, their lawyers said.The three Utah counties Carbon, Duchesne and Uintah said their lawsuit they stand to lose thousands or millions of dollars in oil-and-gas royalties from Salazar’s decision.Salazar will reconsider the 77 leases once President Barack Obama’s pick for the No. 2 job at the department is confirmed, his press secretary, Kendra Barkoff, said Thursday.Senate Republicans blocked David Hayes’ nomination on Wednesday.That effort was led by Utah Sen. Bob Bennett, who says Hayes doesn’t have to be in place for Salazar to fulfill his promise to reconsider the lease parcels and possibly issue them or put them back up for auction.Neese indicated that the lawsuits were an attempt to nudge Salazar in that direction.”We hope this dialogue will result in the BLM reinstating the companies’ leases,” Neese said. “More importantly, we hope to restore integrity to the BLM lease process.”Rob Thompson, one of the Denver lawyers who represent the drillers, said none of the 77 parcels is closer than 15.5 miles to a national park and that those parcels are separated from Arches National Park by state Route 191.The lawsuits were filed in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City.


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