GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado " Senate Democrats on Friday tried passing a bill that included language that would continue to prohibit the Bureau of Land Management from issuing final oil shale regulations.
But that effort failed when the financial stimulus package, which would have contained the oil shale ban, stalled in the Senate on a 52-to-42 vote.
The vote comes as the clock ticks closer to the expiration of the oil shale ban " often called the oil shale moratorium. It is slated to expire at midnight Monday.
U.S. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., has been a vocal supporter of the ban and included it in a spending bill that passed Congress late last year. He, along with Rep. Mark Udall, D-Eldorado Springs, and Rep. John Salazar, D-Manassa, have all said they will fight to "restore an orderly process for oil shale development" when Congress reconvenes in January.
The three Colorado Democrats made that comment after it became apparent that a spending bill expected to clear Congress would not include the oil shale ban.
Sen. Wayne Allard, who has supported removal of the oil shale ban, said "the Democratic-controlled 'do nothing and drill nothing' Congress is out of touch with the people that put them in office" following Friday's Senate vote.
Allard, in his statement, said the attempt to include the oil shale ban in the stimulus package is a clear sign that they would rather "help the economy of foreign oil producers."
"Had this misguided moratorium continued it would have helped Hugo Chavez stimulate his economy more than our own," he said.
If the ban fades away, the BLM would be set to issue final regulations for its commercial oil shale program for 2 million acres in the American West at the end of this year. The agency released draft regulations in July.
The completion of those regulations, along with an expected record of decision that will open about 360,000 acres in Colorado to possible oil shale development, could open the door to a potential sale of federal oil shale leases in the state. However, BLM officials say that it could be years before any lease sale occurs.
The Piceance Basin " which stretches across Garfield, Rio Blanco and Mesa counties "is estimated to have close to 1 trillion barrels of oil, according to a RAND report from 2005.
Several groups have expressed concern over any possible development of oil shale on the Western Slope. They point to the potential water and power demands extraction of the resource might take, along with the possible pollution it could cause.
Companies pursuing oil shale research on five experimental leases in Colorado say they are years from even deciding whether to go ahead with commercial production of oil shale.
Contact Phillip Yates: 384-9117