Bureau of Land Management officials this week auctioned off 134,000 acres in Utah for potential oil and gas drilling, including tracts near Canyonlands National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, as the Trump administration continued its efforts to expand energy production on public lands.
Meanwhile, Forest Service interim chief Vicki Christiansen announced today that her agency is laying plans to streamline regulations governing mining and drilling on national forests and grasslands.
“This is one of many efforts that our agency is undertaking to focus on our priority of regulatory reform,” Christiansen said in a statement released today. “Our goal is to make our processes as simple and efficient as possible while ensuring a sustainable environment for future generations.”
Forest Service officials are accepting public comments on the regulations overhaul until Oct. 15. Two Advance Notices of Proposed Rulemaking were published in the Federal Register today.
Protestors gathered in front of the BLM’s headquarters in Salt Lake City on Tuesday. They condemned that agency’s oil and gas auction, saying the leases will threaten some of Utah’s wildest stretches. They also complain that new BLM policies curtail the public’s ability to comment on proposed oil and gas leases.
“This is a textbook example of what Trump’s ‘energy dominance’ agenda looks like in Utah,” said Stephen Bloch, legal director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “It’s a full-on assault against one of our state’s wildest places. The oil and gas industry has been trying to get its hands on this remote, wild corner of Utah’s red-rock country for years and we’ve fought them off. They’re not going to get it this time either without a fight.”
The new rules proposed by the Forest Service are designed to expedite hard-rock mining and oil and gas drilling on national forests and grasslands.
“The intent of these potential changes would be to decrease permitting times by removing regulatory burdens that unnecessarily encumber energy production,” one of the proposed rules says. “These potential changes would promote domestic oil and gas production by allowing industry to begin production more quickly.”