With most of the attention on Secretary Kenneth Salazar's attempt to stop offshore drilling in the Gulf, some of you may be unaware the same battle is being won a different front. Shortly after President Obama took office, John Podesta, a key member in President Obama's transition team brought into question 77 leases in Utah. Due to pressure from the environmental lobby these leases, which border national parks in the region, were recalled on the assertion that the sales were improper. The belief at the time was that these 77 leases were rushed through in the waning days of the Bush administration. As a result, the leases were withdrawn from the bid round and have been sequestered from exploration since December 2008. According to Kathleen Sgamma, Western Energy Alliance's Director of Government Affairs, this assumption was incorrect. "The withdrawn lease were offered based on the culmination of a seven year environmental management study," Sgamma said. The Western Energy Alliance (formerly Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States or IPAMS) is currently calling on Secretary Salazar to reinstate the 77 leases based on an internal investigative report filed by the Dept. of Interior stating that the leases were carried out properly. The investigative report claims that the reasons for canceling these leases were unfounded. Although the report was completed in December 2009, it was only released this week. According to Sgamma, the real issue is jobs. "This week the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands will hold a hearing on 'Creating Rural Jobs with America's Public Lands,' and the US Chamber of Commerce is holding a Jobs for America Summit." Sgamma added, "Secretary Salazar could take immediate steps to create energy jobs by reinstating the leases and taking other measures to enable western producers to develop the clean American energy on federal lands that our nations needs to survive," Sgamma said. The reinstatement process is ongoing. To view the full Investigative Report conducted internally by the Dept. of Interior visit http://westernenergyalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/BLM-Lease-Report.pdf
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