From The Durango Herald (AP):
MOAB – At the urging of Gov. Gary Herbert and U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, exploratory drilling for oil and natural gas in a roadless section of eastern Utah known for its wildlife has been put on hold until 2016.
Sportsmen’s groups hailed an agreement announced Friday between state land managers and Anadarko Petroleum that delays exploration in the 18,000-acre Bogart Canyon area of the Book Cliffs in Grand County.
The Texas-based company still can drill in the rest of the 96,000 acres it leased last month from the Utah Trust Lands Administration, which manages trust lands remaining from a statehood grant for the benefit of schools.
The agreement was reached after representatives from Herbert and Bishop’s offices, the land-trust agency and Anadarko met in private Thursday.
The deal provides time needed to explore all options for protecting prime habitat for fish and wildlife in Utah, said Casey Snider, Utah coordinator for Trout Unlimited.
“We’ve gotten a little breathing room. Now we’ve got to get down to the real work,” he told The Deseret News.
Last week, the Utah Board of Education rejected a request by Herbert and Bishop to delay exploratory drilling around Bogart Canyon after state land managers said such a move could devalue the deal they were still negotiating with Anadarko.
The two Republicans, who champion energy development, said the trust-lands agency’s secret dealings with Anadarko excluded the interests and views of Utah residents.
But Herbert and Bishop, in statements, praised the agreement to delay drilling in the roadless area.
“Providing time to work out a broader lands initiative through a more inclusive and balanced approach is a win-win for all Utahns, especially Utah’s schoolchildren,” Bishop said.
Grand County Council member Lynn Jackson sought assurances a final decision won’t be debated in secret.
“I’m still concerned about the process, and I highly encourage us as a state to provide a more open and transparent process,” Jackson said.
The trust-lands agency’s board is scheduled to consider modification of the contract at a Sept. 26 meeting in St. George.