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Oil company may buy 200 acres of public land near Tonopah

TONOPAH — The shift away from fossil fuels out of concern over climate change has meant a slow march away from oil.

However, a new proposed sale of public land would allow a Nevada oil refinery to multiply its acreage by more than five times, though the Bureau of Land Management has said there’s no expected impact to species, water or the environment at large as of now.

Foreland Refinery Corp., which was acquired by Utah-based Sky Quarry Inc. in 2022, has operated its Eagle Springs oil facility on 40 acres of public land near Tonopah since the ’80s through a “right-of-way” agreement that allowed the company to do so without owning the land.

Today, the company, which didn’t respond to a request for comment, wants to own that plot of land as well as about 209 acres directly south of it. It’s unclear what the land would be used for, but the BLM said in its assessment of the sale that there would be no “new surface disturbance” in the area.

The land sale agreement is available for review on the BLM’s federal register, and nationwide environmental permitting procedures allow anyone interested to submit feedback.

“BLM is committed to responsible multiple use management of public lands,” the agency’s Battle Mountain district manager, Douglas Furtado, said in a statement. “By making the land sale process accessible and transparent, we ensure that the interested public has an opportunity to provide important and useful information to assist the decision-making process.”

Concerns mount for Railroad Valley

The region where the refinery is located, known as Railroad Valley, has long been the site of concern for animals and water resources.

Arguing that drilling put the federally protected Railroad Valley springfish at risk, the Center for Biological Diversity filed an intent to sue BLM over oil projects in 2021. The Biden-Harris administration paused the leasing of public land for oil and gas soon after, and the center never resumed the lawsuit.

It did, however, submit a petition in 2022 to federally protect the Railroad Valley toad, which is dependent on groundwater in Nye County.

Great Basin director Patrick Donnelly said in a statement that the center is disappointed that a federal agency would work on a deal to potentially burn more fossil fuels and further warm a state grappling with an extreme heat crisis roiled by climate change.

“Railroad Valley is a rich and biodiverse landscape full of endangered species and the desert’s most valuable resource: water,” Donnelly said. “We’re in a climate emergency but instead of winding down oil production in Nevada, BLM is throwing fuel on the fire. We don’t intend to stand by and watch that happen.”

Contact Alan Halaly at ahalaly@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlanHalaly on X.

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