Uintah County's case denied hearing
Five years of litigation came to an end on Oct. 7 when the U.S. Supreme Court denied to hear the petition regarding the 77 canceled oil and gas leases.
The leases were canceled in February 2009 by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar that had been sold in competitive bid in the Dec. 2008 auction.
Petitioners Carbon, Duchesne and Uintah counties and several energy companies claimed that the Secretary exceeded his authority in doing so.
For his part, Salazar deemed the leases too close to Utah's protected lands of Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park and Dinosaur National Monument.
As a result, the Interior Department, Salazar and the Bureau of Land Management were sued in U.S. District Court by the coalition as a result.
Salazar's decision held at the district level with Judge Dee Benson ruling the Secretary had exceeded his authority but the plaintiffs filed their their lawsuit past the 90-day deadline.
The litigants appealed the decision in the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver in September 2012, but here again, the Secretary prevailed.
In January 2013, an additional appeal requesting that the case be heard by the full 10-judge panel was turned down by the 10th Circuit.
"The decision by the 10th Circuit Court sets a dangerous precedent," Mike McKee, Uintah County commissioner, told the Vernal Express at the time
McKee felt that the lingering question of when the clock started - with the Secretary's internal memo, or the public announcement days later - was never adequately resolved.
Uintah County officials have always maintained that a public process buried in the internal memos of a federal agency is unlawful.
In a last ditch effort the litigants asked the Supreme Court to hear arguments related to their appeal.
On Oct. 14 the answer was a denial by the country's top court.
Steve Bloch, attorney with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, who filed as an intervenor with the Interior, called it the "the end of the line" for the lawsuit.
This is not the end for Utah BLM lease auctions as one is scheduled for November 2013.