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Science and Innovations

BLM Will Offer Oil and Gas Leases on 4,200 Acres in Northern Arizona

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Center for Biological Diversity
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The Bureau of Land Management will offer leases on forty-two hundred acres of public land near the Little Colorado River for oil and gas development. The decision comes after a federal ruling loosened the requirements for environmental review. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports.

The parcels will be offered online in September. They fall under a 30-year-old land management plan and at this stage no new environmental review or tribal consultation has taken place.

A federal policy earlier this year encouraged local BLM offices to expedite leases by using existing plans without requiring new analyses. Adam Eggers is a spokesperson for Arizona’s BLM office. He says, "In no way, shape, or form has any public interactions or environmental analysis been skipped. We’re just very, very early on in this process and haven’t gotten to those steps yet, but those steps will absolutely occur." 

A 10-day public protest period will take place prior to the auction. Eggers says an environmental analysis is required if the leases sell and the buyer applies for a permit to drill.

But Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity is worried that review won’t happen. He says, "I don’t accept at face value their assertion that review would happen at that stage, because more often than not, right now, they don’t do so."

McKinnon says the existing management plan hasn’t been updated since 1988 and is too old to address current concerns about greenhouse gas emissions and water scarcity.

The BLM currently leases 12,000 acres in Arizona for oil and gas, but none are in production.

Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.
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