Amy Joi O’Donoghue, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — A trio of Utah’s congressmen are among lawmakers in Washington, D.C., calling out the U.S. Department of Interior for postponing oil and gas lease sales, including one in Utah, due to apparent pressure from environmental groups.
In a letter penned to Interior Assistant Secretary Janice Schneider on Wednesday, 15 members of Congress complained that the cancellations of the auctions involving parcels in Utah, Arkansas and Michigan raise troubling concerns.
“These postponements raise serious doubts about the BLM’s ability to conduct its statutory mandate,” the letter said, pointing out that federal law requires the agency to hold quarterly sales. Postponements led to Utah having just two of the sales and only three sales in all of the Eastern states, the letter said. Wyoming, it added, was the only state to hold the requisite quarterly lease sales over the last two years.
“These latest postponements are troubling; particularly since the total number of new leases issued each year has fallen by 57 percent since 2008,” the letter states.
Utah signatories include Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah and chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources; Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah; and Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah and chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. (…)
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