Energy policy — oil shale: Pitkin County wants federal lands to be off limits to oil shale and tar sands development

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From the Aspen Daily News (Andrew Travers):

The county commissioners have drafted a letter calling for closing public lands to leasing for oil shale and tar sands development, citing the possible impacts on the quantity and quality of water in the Colorado River and the unknown environmental impact of the technology used to turn oil shale into fuel…

Listing possibly dangerous changes to stream and river flows along with increasing toxin levels in the Colorado River basin, the commissioners’ letter calls for a halt to oil shale leasing. “[W]e believe it is premature to lease lands for such development before the impacts to water are determined,” reads the letter signed by commission chairwoman Rachel Richards.

In its call for public comment, the BLM acknowledged the “nascent character” of technology for oil shale and tar sands extraction. The county letter, as drafted, says the feds can’t responsibly allow the use of that burgeoning technology on public lands…

Along with direct impacts to water and the unknowns surrounding untested shale technology, the county letter notes impacts that drill rigs and infrastructure could have on wildlife in public lands OK’d for shale development…

“Consider whether the amount of energy spent in oil shale production, as it compares to the amount of energy it produces, is worth the potential impact to public health and public lands in the form of air and water quality, the overall health of ecosystems and wildlife populations, and tourism-dependent economies of rural Western Colorado,” the letter says.

From the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams):

James T. Bartis of the RAND Corporation testified on Friday (pdf) before the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power. He was asked to speak to the alternative fuel provisions in HR 909, the “Roadmap for America’s Energy Future” bill sponsored by Devin Nunes, R-Calif. “Most of the high value resources lie within in a very small area (roughly 30 by 35 miles) within Colorado’s Piceance Basin and within a small portion of the nearby Uinta Basin within Utah,” Bartis said. “Large-scale development of oil shale will cause federal lands to be diverted from their current uses.

“In the absence environmental and economic mitigation measures unprecedented in scope and scale, such development would almost certainly have adverse ecological impacts, and would likely be accompanied by socioeconomic impacts that could be particularly severe, especially in the northwest quarter of Colorado.”[…]

“Section 141(a)(5) makes the claim that ‘Oil shale is one of the best resources available for advancing American technology and creating American jobs,’” Bartis testified. “I have no knowledge of any research that supports this claim. Oil shale has a potentially important role in advancing our energy security and furthering economic progress. I see no reason to promote oil shale as above other promising areas for advancing technology and creating jobs.”

More oil shale coverage here and here.

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