Oil Shale: Groups looking to Obama administration to help in 2009 | PostIndependent.com

Oil Shale: Groups looking to Obama administration to help in 2009

Phillip Yates
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Twenty-one conservation and environmental groups have requested that the incoming Obama administration withdraw recently released commercial oil shale regulations.

The groups asked Carol Browner, who heads President-elect Barack Obama’s Energy and Environment Policy Working Group and who has been picked to coordinate energy policy from the White House, to withdraw the regulations and review current oil shale policy largely because the research and development program for oil shale extraction “remains in its infancy.”

Shell Exploration and Production, Chevron and American Shale Oil collectively hold five 160-acre research and development leases in northwest Colorado. No company has yet submitted any formal proposal to the BLM to begin developing its experimental lease, according to the agency.

“A commercial leasing program cannot be properly developed until the results of (the research and development program) are known and analyzed, and this is expected to take more than one decade,” the groups’ letter said. “As the Department of the Interior readily acknowledges, oil shale development will compromise the region’s scarce water supplies, degrade sensitive wildlife habitats, and further impact local communities already suffering degraded air quality because of unprecedented oil and gas drilling.”

The Western Colorado Congress, the Colorado Environmental Coalition, the Wilderness Society and Aspen-based EcoFlight were some of the groups that signed the letter, which was sent to Browner earlier this month.

President-elect Barack Obama said in interview with the Glenwood Springs Post Independent nine days before the election that more research and more science should be conducted “to discover whether or not the amount of oil that would be generated would justify what would inevitably be some disruption of the landscape here in Colorado.”

The groups’ request to the Obama administration comes as several environmental groups consider launching a possible lawsuit against the federal government for allegedly violating federal law by not allowing the public to protect land use changes that opened 2 million acres in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming to potential oil shale development.

That decision, along with the release of the regulations, largely clears the way for eventual oil shale leasing. However, that won’t come for several years because of additional environmental analysis that must occur, the BLM has said.

The regulations, required by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, will become effective on Jan. 17, according to the Federal Register.

In mid-October, the Denver office of the Environmental Protection Agency sent a letter to the BLM, saying that the agency continued to be concerned “about the fate and transport of salts, metals and hydrocarbons in groundwater” from oil shale development.

The EPA said the BLM’s final document that outlined the land use changes that opened up the 2 million acres in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah to potential oil shale development, cited limited evidence where in-ground oil shale recovery techniques have “yielded organic groundwater contaminants.”

“We cannot share BLM’s confidence that findings from (oil shale research and development leases) will provide valuable current information on the expected contaminants since EPA has not yet seen any reports published on the results of experiments conducted under the plans of development at these sites nor have any preliminary data been provided to EPA,” the letter said.

The agency also said that it oil shale development processes may have “significant adverse impacts to air quality, in particular by increasing levels of ozone and nitrogen deposition and by impairing visibility at a local level.”

Contact Phillip Yates: 384-9117


Post Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO

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