Garfield commissioners sign joint oil shale resolution
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Garfield County commissioners unanimously approved a resolution this morning offering harsh opposition to the Bureau of Land Management’s new preferred alternative for oil shale research and development to be conducted on federal lands.The decision to sign the joint resolution, which is being put forward by 13 affected counties in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, came after more than two hours of public testimony.Most of the public comments supported the current BLM review and proposed revisions to a 2008 plan that would open up nearly 2 million acres of federal land in the three states to oil shale and tar sands research, demonstration projects and eventual development.The new BLM preferred alternative would reduce the area for leasing to 500,000 acres, including about 36,000 acres in northwest Colorado. The 2008 plan freed up 346,000 acres of BLM land in Colorado for oil shale RD&D. “I can’t fathom why that wouldn’t be enough land for study purposes,” Glenwood Springs resident Gerry Vanderbeek said of the new BLM alternative. “This plan would still give almost half a million acres for study and review.”Vanderbeek and others also objected to the political tone of the joint resolution, which is highly critical of the federal government, under President Obama and Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, for reopening the review process.”This resolution has a very negative tone … which just takes away from the real issue,” he said. The multi-county position statement supports the 2008 BLM decision, approved in the waning days of the Bush administration. A draft version of the resolution came out of a late March meeting of county commissioners from the affected counties.It takes the BLM to task for what the affected view as listening more closely to “anti-oil-shale and pro-wilderness groups” in revising the oil shale plan. The revised EIS was required in a 2009 legal settlement between the BLM and 13 environmental groups that filed suit over the Bush-era plan. “Are there some harsh words in here? Yes there are,” Commissioner Mike Samson said in supporting the resolution. “We’re tired of things being done against us, so there is some resentment on our part.”Maybe that’s what it takes to get Congress’s attention, and to take us serious,” he said. “Instead of fighting energy development at every step of the way, we’re saying, please work with us.”Commissioner Tom Jankvosky has been the lead representative for Garfield County, as an official cooperating agency, working with the BLM on the EIS revision. He said the BLM’s preferred alternative wasn’t even contemplated until late in the game last fall.”There are some radical things stated here,” he said of the resolution. “But it’s meant to say that if we can’t have some reasonable process for oil shale research and development, then we set ourselves up for a rush to drill in the future. Then we will all be very drastically impacted.”The commissioners did work to tone down some of assertions made in the resolution related to oil shale being “proven beyond a doubt to be technologically and economically feasible,” and “requiring little to no consumption of water.””I do have problems with that, because I’m not totally sure that it has been proven to be economically feasible,” Samson said. “And some of the extraction processes do require a lot of water.”Rifle City Council is also considering a statement on the BLM’s preferred alternative on oil shale. It has scheduled a public meeting on April 25 to hear public testimony and to take a position.
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