Five days before the Nov. 19 lease sale, BLM State Director Juan Palma unexpectedly decided to defer 57 leases at the behest of the Utah Rock Art Research Association (URARA), which sent a letter dated nearly two months after the lease sales protest period had ended. Besides not bothering to file a formal protest as required, URARA also failed to participate in the leasing Environmental Assessment public comment period from June 15 to July 15, 2013.
"BLM made a decision to defer 57 leases in Utah because of a last-minute request from one special interest group. The group did not even bother to comment during the prescribed analysis or protest phases, two separate opportunities over several months for the public to participate," said Kathleen Sgamma, vice president of government and public affairs. "BLM's own policies state that it won't accept comments received after established deadlines, yet ignored the public and its own carefully crafted measures by bending to the demands of one group. The situation raises serious questions about political favoritism and sows further uncertainty in the federal leasing process.
"Western Energy Alliance member companies spent over $500,000 preparing for the lease sale and participating in the process. Through that process, BLM applied stipulations to leases to ensure protection of cultural resources. BLM is supposed to make decisions in an open and transparent manner so it isn't unduly influenced by special interests, but that's not what happened in this case."