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December 5, 2012
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Garfield County to protest BLM oil shale decision

GLENWOOD SPRINGS - Garfield County commissioners agreed Tuesday to file a formal protest with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management over its recent decision to reduce the amount of acreage available in northwest Colorado for oil shale leasing.The protest letter, along with what's known as a Request for Information Quality Act Review, both call into question the scientific data used by the BLM in coming up with the plan.In particular, advances in oil shale technology that have come about since 2008 related to water usage, aquifer protection and greenhouse gas emissions were not taken into account in the new plan, the county's protest documents state.The county also claims that the BLM decision is in violation of the 2005 federal Energy Policy Act, because it limits the potential for commercial oil shale production.Both documents will be forwarded to BLM and U.S. Department of Interior officials in Colorado and in Washington, D.C., asking that the environmental review be reopened.Under the record of decision released by the BLM in early November, an additional 26,000 acres in Colorado would be made available for oil shale research, development and demonstration (RD&D) projects.That's compared to 360,000 acres that would have been available under the Bush-era plan issued in 2008.Overall, the BLM's new plan would make about 667,000 acres of federal lands available to lease for oil shale research, but mostly in Utah and Wyoming. The 2008 plan called for around 2 million acres to be made available."If most of the available lands are in Utah, then that's where these RD&D leases are going to go, rather than some coming here in Garfield and Rio Blanco counties," Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said in voting with Commissioner John Martin to file the protest and request to reopen the review process. Commissioner Mike Samson was out of town and not able to attend the Tuesday meeting."We would see a huge benefit if oil shale can be developed in our counties," Jankovsky said, speaking to the potential for jobs and other economic benefits.Jankovsky also countered arguments by citizens at Tuesday's meeting who said opening up more acreage for oil shale development would lead to the same kind of boom-and-bust cycle seen with oil shale in the past."The reason we need to have more land available for leasing is so we don't have that boom and bust," Jankovsky said. "If nothing's done, what happens is there will be some sort of emergency, the flood-gates will open on oil shale, and we'll be the sacrificial lamb here in western Colorado."He said it makes more sense to have a process in place that provides a reasonable path to commercial production after the research and development is done.But some members of the public who spoke at the meeting questioned whether oil shale would ever prove to be a viable energy source."I would urge caution in projecting the economic benefits of oil shale," said Lisa Bracken, a Silt-area resident. She has been critical of the county's efforts to monitor for water and air quality impacts associated with oil and gas development."I think we do need to ask for more clarity on the true potential for commercial-scale development of oil shale," Bracken said. "Human health and preservation of our environmental sustainability are extremely important as well."Glenwood Springs resident Anita Sherman questioned the county's level of effort to oppose the federal government's plans for oil shale."As a county resident I would like to see as much energy going into other opportunities," she said in reference to developing renewable energy resources.Brad McCloud, executive director of the Grand Junction-based nonprofit Environmentally Conscious Consumers for Oil Shale, supported the county commissioners in filing the objections to the BLM plan."We believe oil shale has a future," said McCloud, whose organization was involved with and endorsed the 2008 oil shale leasing plan. "It's not the silver bullet, but it should be part of this country's energy picture."Glenwood Springs resident and oil shale supporter Floyd Diemoz said a plan that opens federal lands for research and development without assurances that energy companies can proceed to commercial production is a failed plan."This is just going to stop oil shale," Diemoz said of the new leasing plan.jstroud@postindependent.com


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The Post Independent Updated Dec 5, 2012 05:49AM Published Dec 5, 2012 05:47AM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.