For Immediate Release: October 7, 2002                                

Contact:  Heidi McIntosh, SUWA Conservation Director 801 486-3161, ext. 15
              Steve Bloch, SUWA Staff Attorney, 801 486-3161, ext. 16

MASSIVE OIL EXPLORATION PROJECT APPROVED IN UTAH Proposed Wilderness, Wildlife Habitat Threatened by 3,000-Square Mile Project

SALT LAKE CITY Over the objections of the Environmental Protection Agency and tens of thousands of citizens, the federal Bureau of Land Management has approved one of the largest oil and gas exploration projects in Utah history, for one of the largest oil exploration companies in the world.  The BLM has given Veritas DGC Inc. of Houston, Texas the right to detonate 7,500 explosive charges on nearly 500 miles of seismic lines affecting over 3,000 square miles of scenic public lands.  Seven areas proposed for wilderness designation would be criss-crossed with seismic lines.  Nevertheless, the BLM found that the oil exploration would have "no significant environmental impact."

Controversy surrounding the project also broke BLM records.  Over 25,000 people wrote to the BLM expressing concern about the project. The Environmental Protection Agency notified the BLM  on September 9, 2002 that the environmental assessment for the project "lacks sufficient information to fairly determine a Finding of No Significant Impact."

SUWA staff attorney Steve Bloch noted that "in January 2002, the BLM's Washington brass ordered the Utah BLM to make oil and gas development their 'Number 1 priority,' and now they are taking that to extremes.  At this point, nothing matters to the BLM not wildlife, wilderness, recreation needs, public input as much as satisfying the oil industry's insatiable appetite."

Utah's magnificent redrock canyon country has witnessed a dramatic increase in oil and gas exploration and drilling in sensitive areas since the Bush administration began to implement its development-oriented energy policy.  Heidi McIntosh, SUWA's conservation director, explained that "while the Clinton administration took a more balanced approached that preserved scenic wild lands while developing other areas, it's as if the Bush administration has begun target practice with Utah’s pristine landscapes in the bulls-eye."

On Friday, October 4th, the BLM met with Veritas representatives and finalized the decision without making their environmental analysis available to the public.  The BLM put the decision in “full force and effect” immediately.

Additional Background:  This marks the third time in recent months that the EPA has identified lax environmental review by the BLM for oil and gas projects.  Earlier this year, the EPA notified the BLM that oil exploration projects east of Arches National Park, and in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming, did not meet legal standards.  

 

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