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Denver Appeals Court Rejects Challenge to Utah Oil and Gas Leases

Jonah Field WYO.JPG
KUNC file photo

A federal appeals court in Denver has upheld an Obama Administration decision overturning the issuance of oil and gas leases near national parks and monuments in eastern Utah and northwestern Colorado.

The leases were issued in the late hour of the Bush Administration in 2008 and in some instances, would have allowed limited oil and gas drilling near Arches and Canyonlands national parks and Desolation Canyon in Utah as well as the Dinosaur National Monument.

Some of the leases were within just a few miles of the parks and others in proposed wilderness areas. Conservationists worried the development would have disrupted wildlife and scenic views.  Following their successful legal challenge, the Obama Administration and its Interior Secretary Ken Salazar reversed the decision and it’s been in the courts ever since. 

The latest legal battle centered not on the merits of Salazar’s revoking of the leases but rather on whether the oil and gas industry missed a 90-day window to appeal the decision and therefore the statute of limitations had run out.  Industry groups argued the "notice of appeal" was effectively an internal memo. 

But this week, in a 2-1 ruling, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver concluded otherwise. 

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