Salazar seeks extension of comment period on oil shale leasing document
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
RIFLE, Colorado ” United States Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., was seeking a 60-day extension for public comment about a draft programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) that could designate about 2 million acres of the American West open to possible oil shale leasing.
But on Tuesday, the Bureau of Land Management said it would not extend the Thursday deadline for public input on the agency’s PEIS. That statement has two clear alternatives for oil shale leasing in Colorado. One would open 359,798 acres for possible development, while the other would designate just 40,325 acres for possible oil shale leasing.
BLM spokeswoman Heather Feeney in Washington said officials are always willing to consider extending a public-comment period, but cannot do it this time. With two days left before the deadline, Feeney said an extension would mean officials would have to publish a federal register notice and reopen the comment period, which is unlikely to happen.
In a letter to Dirk Kempthorne, secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, Salazar wrote he was seeking the 60-day extension for the public to comment on the PEIS on behalf of “a number of local governments and organizations and many citizens who reside on the Western Slope.” Salazar’s office sent the letter on Monday.
“I think it is appropriate to have additional time of 45 to 60 days for there to be a thoughtful review of the PEIS,” Salazar said referring to the document’s 1,400 pages. “When and if oil shale is developed on the Western Slope, it is going to have a dramatic impact on its future. I think it is important that people know what they are doing. I think it is a very appropriate request.”
Rifle Mayor Keith Lambert echoed Salazar’s thoughts.
“All we are asking for is a little more time to digest what is in there so comments can be made appropriately,” said Rifle Mayor Keith Lambert, a Democrat.
Salazar said it was his view that oil shale leasing is coming too soon, especially since technology to extract the resource has not yet been proven. He also had other concerns.
“Where is the water going to come from? How much energy is going to be used? What are going to be the impacts on the surface?” Salazar asked. “None of those questions have been answered, so why are we moving forward with full-scale commercial oil shale leasing program before we know the answers to those questions?”
When asked if he thought the BLM would grant the extension, he said he honestly “did not know.”
“The (U.S. Department of Interior), frankly, in most cases, have been carrying out an agenda where it is trying to rush headlong to get as much in place for development as they possibly can before the clock runs out on them,” Salazar said. “The clock is running because there is an election this November, and I won’t be surprised if we don’t get the extension. I think it would be the right thing to give us the extension.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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