August 18, 2009--Attorney says Salazar could yank oil, gas leases (Denver Post)

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has the authority to cancel oil and gas leases on western Colorado's Roan Plateau, said an attorney representing environmental groups challenging the leases. Last week, Salazar ruled out withdrawing leases issued for nearly 55,000 acres of public land on the plateau. He told The Daily Sentinel in Grand Junction last week that the leases have been signed and he is bound to protect the buyers' property rights. But Michael Freeman, an attorney with Earthjustice, said in an interview with The Associated Press that Salazar can cancel the leases if he determines they were illegal or improper. "He has the authority to recognize when his department has legal vulnerability," Freeman said. An example of that, Freeman said, was Salazar's decision in February to withdraw 77 oil and gas leases issued by the Bush administration in Utah after saying they were too close to national parks. He left open the possibility that some leases might prove suitable for development after a review.

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