The BLM’s Utah office raked in $3.4 million Tuesday at an oil and gas auction where leases were offered on 35 parcels covering 44,000 acres in Carbon, Emery and Uintah counties.
Many leases sold for less than $10 an acre, but Finley Resources, Inc., of Fort Worth, Texas, bought two small parcels in oil-rich Uintah County for $10,000 and $12,000 an acre. A single 183-acre parcel accounted for just over half of the money the Bureau of Land Management netted on Tuesday. The busiest bidder was Pensar Petroleum of Denver, which acquired 17 parcels covering more than 28,000 acres in Carbon County.
The state will get nearly half the auction’s revenue, including a $1.50-per-acre annual rental charge, which will be shared with the counties where the leases are located.
The auction had promised to be a controversial one, but on Friday agency officials announced they were withdrawing nearly 100,000 acres in Emery County from the sale, much of it in and around the San Rafael Swell. Wilderness advocates, outdoor business leaders and rock art aficionados had raised concerns about the impacts of oil and gas development on that land.
Utah state BLM Director Juan Palma agreed to re-evaluate these proposed lease parcels, triggering strong rebukes from Republican members of Utah’s congressional delegation who claimed the BLM is subservient to "environmental elites" at the expense of rural Utah communities. But Palma stood by his call on Tuesday.
"The combination of thorough environmental analysis and public participation helps us ensure that energy resources on Utah’s public lands are responsibly developed in the right places and in the right ways," he said.
Six parcels, all in Emery County, failed to attract the minimum $2 bid. Utah’s last oil and gas auction in August, which targeted Tooele and Box Elder counties, failed to attract a single bid. The next auction, set for May 20, will offer parcels in the state’s southern half. A draft environmental assessment will be released next month.
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