Press Releases

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Washington, D.C.—On Tuesday, the United States Senate passed major energy legislation for the first time in nearly a decade. Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the senior Republican in the United States Senate, lauded the bill’s passage after successful efforts to include several key provisions important to Utah.

“Modernization policies for our our fast-changing energy sector are long overdue,” Hatch said. “This bipartisan legislation will enhance energy efficiency, improve energy infrastructure, increase America’s energy supply, and enhance our national security."

One of Hatch's amendments included in the bill puts pressure on the federal government to fulfill its legal obligations to conduct oil and gas lease auctions in a timely manner. "If the BLM is going to postpone a lease-sale due to protest activity or any other disruption, the agency should have the ability to conduct these sales online,” Hatch asserted. “My provision requires the BLM to explore the implementation of internet-based lease sales so that the mere threat of protest does not derail oil and gas lease auctions that are critical to Utah’s economy.” 

Kathleen Sgamma, the Vice President of Government and Public Affairs at the Western Energy Alliance, spoke out in support of Senator Hatch’s efforts. “Western Energy Alliance sincerely appreciates Senator Hatch’s amendment that helps to address the uncertainty in oil and natural gas leases sales,” Sgamma said. “Keep-It-in-the-Ground protesters are disrupting lease sales as a way to prevent development of Utah’s energy resources, which deprives Utahns of jobs, economic opportunity and tax revenue. The amendment is a common sense way to ensure that a vocal minority cannot block responsible business in Utah and across the West. In addition, it helps BLM fulfill its obligations to conduct quarterly oil and gas sales using well-established technology, saving time and money.”

Background on Utah Provision

The Mineral Leasing Act requires the BLM to hold quarterly auctions for oil and gas leases on public lands. However, threats of protests or other disruptions have occasionally resulted in the postponement of BLM auctions as the BLM needs time to “accommodate high levels of public interest.” Delays to the auction process are not only in violation of the law, but they stall economic development in local communities, weaken U.S. energy security, and depart from the BLM’s multiple-use mission.

Senator Hatch’s Amendment directs the Secretary of the Interior to conduct and offer to Congress a report recommending online auctions of oil and gas leases if in-person lease auctions are delayed by threats of protest or other unforeseen activities that disrupt timely sales.