Environment
11:55 am
Fri March 29, 2013

Feds Amend Land Use Plans for Energy Developers in Utah, West

The Department of the Interior has amended the process for land leasing in Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming.

March has been a month of big changes for energy developers in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming. The Interior Department has amended some of its land-use plans for leasing to oil shale and tar sands developers, and proposed higher royalty rates and stricter air and water protections.

Bill Midcap is with the Rocky Mountain Farmer's Union. He said his group is supporting the proposed changes and said the energy boom is using a lot of water and farmers are concerned about having to compete for that water.

"The industry has said that they can use a lot less water than what they've used in the past. What the plan allows for is they have to prove that research to the department before they can move ahead with full-scale leasing of those public lands," Midcap said.

Recreational users of the land have also come out in support of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's land leasing limits. Jason Keith with the Outdoor Alliance in Moab said energy companies aren't the only ones dealing with a climate of uncertainty about which lands they can use in the future.

"We like that they're going to require proof of concept and proof of technology before they go forward, but we still have our eyes on very specific important areas- in Utah in particular, the SanĀ  Rafael Swell."

Interior department is also proposing additional requirements for developers to take environmental precautions. Those rules about air, water, and wildlife protection, and increasing royalty rates, are up for public comment through May.

To see all proposed changes and comment on the amendments, click here.