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Bush-Era Drilling Lease Sales Voided In Utah

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And the new interior secretary yesterday has canceled some deals. That would be dozens of oil and gas leases in Utah that the Bush administration sold to energy companies just before Mr. Bush left office.

NPR's Elizabeth Shogren has more.

Unidentified Man: Two-ten, you want to bid at 210. Are you all in? You are all done at 200.

(Soundbite of gavel)

ELIZABETH SHOGREN: Just before Christmas, the Bush administration sold a 116 parcels in Southern Utah. Environmental groups challenged 77 of them in court. And yesterday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced he was rejecting those controversial bids.

Representative KEN SALAZAR (Democrat, Colorado; Interior Secretary): President Obama and I believe strongly that we need to responsibly develop our oil and gas supplies to help reduce our dependence on foreign oil. But we need to make sure that we protect our signature landscapes and cultural resources for future generations.

SHOGREN: The canceled parcels cover 130,000 acres. Some are near arches in Canyonland National Parks. Kathleen Sagama(ph) represents the Independent Petroleum Association of America.

Ms. KATHLEEN SAGAMA (Independent Petroleum Association of America): We're wondering why the administration is implementing policies that will limit economic development in the West, decrease our energy security and make addressing climate change even more difficult.

SHOGREN: Sharon Buccino, a lawyer for Natural Resources Defense Council applauded the decision.

Ms. SHARON BUCCINO (Lawyer, Natural Resources Defense Council): The beauty and the solitude that you gather from this wild lands is irreplaceable, and it's simply not worth the miniscule amount of oil and gas there.

SHOGREN: Salazar left open the possibility that these parcels may be offered for release again after the Obama administration assesses them.

Elizabeth Shogren, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Elizabeth Shogren is an NPR News Science Desk correspondent focused on covering environment and energy issues and news.