Salazar Scraps Sale Of Oil, Gas Leases

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said recently the government is throwing out the leases of 77 parcels of federal land for oil and gas drilling in Utah's redrock country.

"In the last weeks in office, the Bush administration rushed ahead to sell oil and gas leases near some of our nation's most precious landscapes in Utah," Salazar told the Associated Press in a teleconference call.

Secretary Salazar said he had ordered the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management to not cash checks from winning bidders for parcels at issue in a lawsuit filed by environmental groups.

"We will take time and a fresh look at these 77 parcels to see if they are appropriate for oil and gas development," Secretary Salazar said.

A federal judge put the sale of the 77 parcels, totaling about 100,000 acres, on hold recently until the lawsuit was resolved. Now, Secretary Salazar is refusing to sell any of them until the new administration reviews them.

Salazar said some of the land lease parcels are too close to Arches and Canyonlands national parks and Dinosaur National Monument. He also worked to protect plateaus populated by big game atop Nine Mile Canyon, the AP reports.

Published: February 11, 2009