Congressmen Lowenthal, Grijalva, and Colleagues, Call on Interior Secretary To Cancel Utah Oil And Gas Lease Sale

August 11, 2020
Press Release

Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) and House Natural Resources Committee Chair, Raul Grijalva,  yesterday, led 31 of their House colleagues in sending a letter to Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt raising serious concerns about the upcoming September 2020 oil and gas lease sale in southern Utah by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which threatens to put nearly 90,000 acres some of the most fragile, scenic, and popular landscapes of the region at potential risk.

“The Department of Interior’s proposed lease sale in Utah is shameful,” Congressman Lowenthal said. “Many of the proposed areas are just outside of some of our nations most prized National Parks, threatening the environment and ecosystems of these protected lands. Some of the proposed areas are themselves fragile areas that have characteristics of wilderness and should be protected. Further, holding a lease sale when oil and gas prices are at historical lows is dereliction of Interiors responsibility to the American taxpayers to get a fair return on investment. This is not the time for such a lease sale and many of these areas are not the place.”

In the letter, the Members point out that the, “Development of these parcels would threaten to ruin the stunning scenic beauty and visitors’ use and enjoyment of these iconic national parks, redrock canyons, and mesas with drill rigs, pipelines, and natural gas flaring. Further, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to drive down demand for oil and gas leases on public lands while oil and gas wells are being shut-in or abandoned at unprecedented rates, providing little economic justification for this sale. We urge the Department of the Interior to cancel this lease sale.”

“We’re in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic that has infected more than five million Americans, and the Trump administration is focused on giving away public lands to the polluting fossil fuel industry,” Chair Grijalva said. “If this oil and gas lease sale goes forward next month, it would threaten the iconic Utah landscapes near National Parks and wilderness areas and would deprive the public on a fair return on valuable taxpayer resources. President Trump is no conservationist. It’s clear that his administration is more concerned with doing the bidding of Big Oil than protecting public lands and respecting the wishes of local officials. These lease sales must be canceled.”

The Members conclude the letter by calling on Secretary Bernhardt to cancel the proposed September 2020 oil and gas lease sale.

"Climate change requires immediate action. The BLM must put a halt to all new leasing of public lands if there is any chance of avoiding the most severe impacts of a changing climate,” Legal Director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance Steve Bloch said. “Development of these leases will exacerbate the climate crisis, while also marring one of the nation’s most iconic redrock landscapes. We are grateful for Representative Lowenthal’s leadership in the fight for climate justice and pushing back against the Trump administration’s wanton mismanagement of America’s public lands.”

“Our public lands need to transition away from fossil fuel development and the emissions produced by it. Canceling this lease sale – which threatens the heart of Utah’s stunning redrock country – would be a step in the right direction, especially as we see rock-bottom prices for oil and gas continue during the pandemic," Director of Campaigns at the Wilderness Society Maria Handley said. “Beyond that, equitably revamping how we use public lands means urgently helping communities move away from fossil fuel extraction-based economies in ways that keep the community and families whole. We look forward to continuing this work with Representative Lowenthal.”

“This is a huge and reckless expansion of oil and gas leasing that encroaches within half a mile of Canyonlands National Park,” National Parks Conservation Association Southwest Associate Director Erika Pollard said. “Opening up so much land for oil and gas drilling will pollute the air in nearby national parks and local communities and obscure the area’s spectacular dark night skies and expansive views. Millions of people each year visit Utah’s red-rock landscape which provides the foundation for a strong local tourism and outdoor recreation economy. Handing over tens of thousands of acres of this land to oil and gas corporations will not only damage the parks but will also hurt local businesses and harm the health of local residents. With such widespread local opposition to these plans, and with coronavirus limiting the involvement of tribal communities in the consultation process, we urge the Bureau of Land Management to postpone this lease sale.”

Click here to read the full text of the letter including a list of signatories.