Energy policy — oil shale: Department of Interior policy update

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From The Colorado Independent (David O. Williams):

“As we all know, the energy challenges our country faces are serious and have gone unaddressed for far too long,” U.S. Bureau of Land Management director Bob Abbey said Tuesday, “and therefore we believe we need to responsibly develop our oil and gas supplies to help us reduce our dependence on foreign oil, but we also must do so in a thoughtful and balanced way.”

Abbey was speaking the same day the BLM filed a settlement in federal district court in Colorado promising to revisit oil shale leasing rules approved in the waning days of the Bush administration in 2008. Those rules opened up 2 million acres of BLM land to commercial oil shale leasing and set a royalty rate of 5 percent. Several environmental groups filed two lawsuits in 2009 challenging those rules.

“The previous 2008 regulations made critical decisions such as royalty rate before the RD&D [research, development and demonstration] program had a chance to deliver information and answers,” U.S. Interior Secretary and former Colorado senator Ken Salazar said. “They put the cart before the horse, and in so doing they heightened the risk of speculation and bad decisions and yet another oil shale bust.”[…]

“From our perspective, oil is perhaps a scarce resource, but water is also pretty scarce here in the arid West, and fish and wildlife habitat and the hunting and fishing and outdoor recreation that habitat provides is a resource that has helped sustain rural communities in the West,” said Kate Zimmerman of the Rocky Mountain Regional Center of the National Wildlife Federation.

Bill Midcap of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) worries oil shale production could adversely impact his industry as well. “Every drop of water Mother Nature blesses Colorado with has the potential to run out of our state,” Midcap said. “How society chooses to use that water is a really good question. The dependence on agriculture in this state is huge; we are the second largest industry in the state. We can’t just keep doing more with less.”

More oil shale coverage here and here.

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