SALT LAKE CITY — The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a case involving 77 oil and gas leases in the Uintah Basin that were shelved when President Barack Obama took office.
Controversy surrounded the leases in 2009. Several Utah counties and energy developers asked the high court to reinstate the leases, which were halted by Ken Salazar, who served as the Secretary of the Interior at that time.
The leases were on land near Moab, Canyonlands National Park, Desolation Canyon and Dinosaur National Monument.
Steve Bloch of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance said they are glad the Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
“It means that these special places around our remarkable national parks and other wild places in Utah are going to be spared from oil and gas development and drilling,” he said.
Six of the original 77 withdrawn leases were later reinstated, but the economic impact of the Supreme Court’s decision means hundreds of millions of dollars lost for the Uintah Basin. Uintah County Commissioner Mike McKee said that every lease represents about $6 million into the local economy. Seventy one of the leases will not go forward.
“This was a seven and a half year process that allowed these leases to be sold to begin with,” McKee said. “These leases were not in national parks. They were not in national monuments. These were areas that had been fully vetted and analyzed and found to be appropriate for leasing.”
Federal judge Dee Benson had ruled Salazar did not have the authority to withdraw the leases, but the counties’ appeal was not made in a timely manner. The case is now concluded.