Energy Companies Get No 'Parting Gift' from BLM

The Bureau of Land Management hasn't gone through with its plans to auction off leases on land, apparently intended to be explored for oil and gas.

"The agency still will proceed with more than 100 lease sales at a Dec. 19 auction. BLM officials did not return calls for comment Tuesday night, but they released a statement with the National Park Service after a Monday meeting, saying the two agencies had come to an agreement on protecting the environment.

'This constructive dialogue between our agencies has resulted in a positive outcome,' Selma Sierra, the BLM director in Utah, said in the statement. 'This is important for two sister agencies with environmental stewardship missions.'

It was unclear Tuesday night precisely how many sales were being deferred -- environmentalists counted 34, and the BLM's statement identified at least 18. But environmental groups said that was not enough. They noted that the Park Service had identified 93 of the leases as problematic.

'Putting oil and gas exploration and industrial zones in the Southwest causes irreparable damage,' said David Nimkin of the National Park Conservation Assn. 'It's like burning Rembrandts to heat the castle. I'm not sure we're that desperate.'"

Full Story: Agency backs off from land auctions

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