The proposed oil and gas leases for areas close to Mesquite in Lincoln County have been deferred for up to one year according to Chris Hanefeld, BLM Ely District Public Affairs Specialist.

“All but four parcels up for leases have been put in a deferred status,” Hanefeld told the Mesquite Local News on Monday. “Those four parcels are all in White Pine County in northern Nevada. None of the proposed parcels in Lincoln County will be available at the Dec. 15 auction.”

Hanefeld also said the deferral on all the available parcels is only for one year.

During a joint meeting of the Mesquite City Council and the Virgin Valley Water District held at Mesquite City Hall July 15, over 50 local residents expressed concerns about potential oil and gas leases on land that extended southward to approximately six miles from Mesquite’s northern border.

As Burton Weast, MLN reporter, wrote in a July article about the meeting, “Kevin Brown, general manager of VVWD told Carlton that almost all of Block A is within Basin 222. Brown explained that VVWD held the senior water rights for the basin, and that the area adjoins sites where the district currently has wells or is planning wells. Brown and several VVWD directors expressed their strong opposition to the proposal and indicated they would take whatever steps were necessary to protect the areas water supply.”

According to Hanefeld, the parcels could potentially be included in oil and gas leases available in 2016. “We will repeat the same process we did this year. That is, the potential lease sites will be publicly noticed and people will have a chance to comment on them next year, the same as they did this year. Next year we will take special actions to make sure the City of Mesquite and the Virgin Valley Water District have plenty of notice about the parcels up for leases,” Hanefeld added.

While several of the blocks of potential leases had previously been deferred from this year’s auction, as of the July 15 meeting none of the areas located closest to Mesquite had been deferred. In fact, Block A, the parcel adjacent to Mesquite, was recommended to be included for leasing in its entirety.

Chris Carlton, of the Caliente office of the BLM responded that his office had not received any comments on Block A as of the July 15 meeting and that was why it was still recommended.  Mesquite Mayor Al Litman suggested that was because no one knew about the Environmental Assessment document.

The major notification problem Carlton acknowledged was that the Ely BLM district does not include Clark County and ends at the Lincoln County line.

Hanefeld told the MLN on Monday that the BLM Ely District received 168 comment submissions from members of the public, special interest groups, Tribal Governments, and other government agencies regarding the potential oil and gas leases. The District also received a petition with 2,321 signatures to ban fracking at all levels of government in the State of Nevada.

Government agencies at all levels that commented on the issue included (but not limited to) the City of Mesquite, Virgin Valley Water District, Lincoln County Water District, Moapa Valley Water District, Moapa Band of Paiutes, and the Duckwater and Ely Shoshone Tribes. Six ‘interested groups’ commented on the proposal: the Center for Biological Diversity, Great Basin Resource Watch, Nevadan’s Against Fracking, Save Nevada’s Water: Ban Fracking in Nevada, Western Energy Alliance and the Wildlands Defense.