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The Planet

Conoco Drill Plans Threaten Utah Monument

The Planet, May 1997, Volume 4, number 4

By Mary-Beth Baptista

In his September speech at the south rim of the Grand Canyon designating the Grand Staircase-Escalante as a national monument, President Clinton said "[the monument] will remain open for multiple uses, including hunting, fishing, hiking, camping and grazing." However, Clinton did not buy out existing leases in the newly created monument, so oil giant Conoco was able to file with the Bureau of Land Management for oil and gas drill permits on the leases it already had there. The day after Conoco filed, the pro-development Utah state legislature passed a resolution supporting drilling within the monument. Next, Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) introduced S. 357 to redefine the monument's uses to include mining, logging and oil drilling.

As it stands, Conoco holds leases for 140,000 acres of federal and state land within the monument. On March 27, the company received permission to drill an exploratory oil well on a section of state-owned land in a remote area atop the Kaiparowits Plateau. Issued by the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining, the permit allowed drilling as of April 2. The Bennett bill could throw the door wide open to even greater exploitation.

Sen. Bennett claims that the intent of S. 357 is to clarify last-minute concessions that were not included in the monument's formal written proclamation. He asserts that Clinton promised those concessions in response to concerns raised by Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt (R) and members of the Utah congressional delegation over the designation's conditions. The senator said the bill includes his "interpretations" of what Clinton promised during his speech and would make no changes to the management of the monument.

"The president didn't intend to turn the monument into an industrial zone," said Southwest Regional Representative Lawson LeGate. "And he never mentioned logging or energy and mineral development as multiple uses in the monument.''

To take action: Utah law does not allow legal challenges to existing drilling permits, so it is up to the public to bombard Conoco and its Delaware-based parent company, Du Pont, with telephone calls and letters. Du Pont recently took a drubbing from Interior Secretary Babbitt over its plans to mine next to the Okefenokee wildlife refuge. Let's make it a double whammy. Please call, write or e-mail Du Pont CEO Jack Krol (see contact info above) and call Conoco CEO Archie Dunham at (281) 293-1000 or (800) 624-6440. Write Conoco Inc. at 600 North Dairy Ashford, Houston, TX 77079; e-mail: <ask.us@conoco.dupont.com>

Call your senators at the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and tell them that S. 357 threatens the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and deserves to be defeated. Finally, call President Clinton at (202) 456-1414 or e-mail him at <president@whitehouse.gov> and remind him how he praised the Utah wilderness as "some of the most remarkable land in the world" and ask him to preserve the monument by preventing drilling there.

For more information: Contact Lawson LeGate in the Utah office at (801) 467-9294; e-mail: <lawson.legate@sierraclub.org>

http://www.sierraclub.org/planet/199705/conoco.asp


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