Monday, June 7, 2010

Litigation over oil and gas reforms?

In yet another percolating battle between state and federal agencies over control of public lands, a top official in Gov. Gary Herbert's administration said Wednesday that litigation may be the only option to challenge recent reforms to the nation's oil and gas leasing program. A conference call among Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's office and state environmental, land and energy advisers to the governor was held Wednesday morning on the heels of last week's announcement that Salazar had finalized sweeping changes to the program. Public lands director John Harja said the conference call made clear the reforms have been implemented, with no backward glances being considered by Salazar's office. "They are now operational," Harja told lawmakers on the natural resources and environment interim committee. Most disconcerting, he said, is the added layer of review with Salazar's creation of "master leasing plans" for parcels under consideration for resource development. "This looks like it has every possibility of becoming a cog in the wheel and not producing any useful results," he said, adding that litigation may be an avenue the state would want to consider. Deseret News