(KCPW News) Senator Bob Bennett's spat with the Department of the Interior over 77 contested oil and gas leases in Utah has ended, with Bennett claiming victory. But David Garbett with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance says it was Bennett himself who backed down.
"I think it's just Senator Bennett is upset that there's, as they say, a new sheriff in town and that the Department of Interior is now taking a new direction of, I think, a more balanced approach to public lands management," Garbett says.
Bennett had placed a hold on the confirmation of Deputy Secretary nominee David Hayes in protest of Salazar's actions. He withdrew the hold on Wednesday after receiving a letter from the secretary. Bennett claims that in the letter, the Department admitted to relying on inaccurate information about whether the Bureau of Land Management consulted with the National Park Service about some of the lease parcels. But Garbett says this is an insignificant point in the larger debate about whether the BLM should have auctioned off the parcels in the first place during the agency's December oil and gas lease auction.
"I think the bigger question will be: Were concerns raised, was this inappropriate, what did the federal district court say when it prevented the BLM from issuing these? And I think those will be the big factors. It's not going to be this minor side show that Bennett has chosen to focus on," Garbett says.
Bennett has also lifted his hold on another Interior Department nominee, Hilary Tompkins, who is nominated to the position of solicitor.