U.S. to Delay Western Oil Lease Sales

WASHINGTON (Dow Jones), Apr. 12, 2010

The Bureau of Land Management will delay a scheduled oil and natural gas lease sale in the Western U.S. to study the impact of potential greenhouse gases from development, the agency said Friday.

The agency has also suspended 61 Montana leases issued in 2008 to conduct additional environmental reviews that include climate impact.

The decision, which follows from a legal settlement with environmentalists who challenged the leasing under the National Environmental Policy Act, may set a precedent for future lease sales across the country, an agency official said.

"By taking this additional time, the BLM will be able to provide assurances to industry so that it can move forward with greater certainty in leasing parcels from the BLM and developing oil and gas resources," the agency said in a statement.

The next lease sale had been scheduled for April 13 and included 129 parcels in Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota. BLM spokeswoman Mary Apple said the agency hoped to have completed the review by September so as to move forward with the program. She added, however, that "we haven't quite figured how we're going to" conduct the study, or what the parameters for consideration are.

Copyright (c) 2010 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.