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Denver Court Hears Appeal Over Disputed Utah Leases

KUNC file photo

A federal court in Denver this morning will hear the oil and gas industry’s appeal of a ruling by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar that revoked dozens of drilling leases near national parks in Utah and Colorado.  The hearing follows an unsuccessful challenge to the move by many companies and Utah counties.

In the late hour of the Bush Administration, federal land managers leased lands neighboring Arches and Canyonlands national parks, and the Dinosaur National Monument.  The Obama Administration later revoked 77 of these leases, a move that was upheld by a Utah district court on a technicality. 

Kathleen Sgamma, director of government affairs with the Denver-based Western Energy Alliance, says the Interior Secretary’s move was unlawful.

"If the Secretary is able to go in, after the fact and just cancel leases, despite holding an auction and entering into a contract with a company, then there’s quite a lot of uncertainty in that process," Sgamma says.

Attorneys for the government and conservation groups disagree.  They say the leases put some of the West’s most prized and environmentally sensitive areas at risk. 

Oral arguments will be heard before a three judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals at 9 AM. 

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