WASHINGTON, Dec 7 (Reuters) - The Obama administration on Monday said it has postponed an oil and gas lease sale for lands in Michigan and Arkansas that environmental groups had planned to target this week.
The sale, originally scheduled to take place in Washington on Thursday, will now occur on March 17 to combine it with a quarterly sale, said the Bureau of Land Management, or BLM.
Environmental groups, including 350.org and Greenpeace, that combined to fight the Keystone XL pipeline were emboldened by President Barack Obama's rejection of the Keystone project last month. Now they are hoping to block the extraction of oil, coal and gas on public lands, arguing that the deposits need to be kept in the ground to slow global warming.
Several groups planned to protest the event, where leases would have been sold to drill in Michigan and Arkansas. A posting on Facebook by the groups last week alluded to a "separate, higher-risk action," at the sale, without going into detail.
The sale would have occurred as leaders from nearly 190 countries are seeking to reach a deal in Paris on cutting carbon emissions.
Robert Gillcash, a BLM official, said the government delayed the event until March to have time to find a venue to accommodate "increased public interest."
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Bernard Orr)
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