A BLM public meeting on oil shale drew about 100 people in Rifle yesterday, as the agency takes a fresh look fresh look at an oil shale plan released in the closing days of the Bush Administration.
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Those in attendance voiced their concerned about rising gasoline prices, and air and water quality as the discussion focused on the attempt to unlock millions of barrels of oil from rocks in large sections of Colorado’s Western Slope.
The plan released by the Bush Administation made nearly 2 million acres of public land potentially available for commercial oil shale development in Utah, Wyoming and Colorado, and about 431,000 acres available for tar sands leasing and development.
The proposal prompted multiple lawsuits on behalf of environmental groups, and was criticized by elected officials, including former Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar, now head of the Interior Department, which would be responsible for overseeing any oil shale development.
More meetings on the controversial plan are scheduled for Denver today and in Cheyenne on Thursday.
Oil shale supporters say the Rockies’ vast resources could help cut the country’s reliance on foreign oil.
Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado’s 4th Congressional District is a big backer of stepping up domestic oil and gas production, including oil shale, on the state’s Western Slope.
“It is all well and good to propose measures that may pay off decades in the future, such as alternative energy research and higher CAFÉ standards for vehicles,” Lamborn states on his website. “The most urgent and immediate solution though is to ramp up domestic production of oil and gas right now.”
All of the major companies are doing oil shale because they think it’s an interesting and high-potential area, but they’re not in a hurry to make it productive,” said Jeremy Boak, director of the Center for Oil Shale Technology and Research (COSTAR) at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden.
But critics say any oil shale development would require enormous amounts of water, likely draw it away from agricultural and urban needs. In addition, the sector would “perpetuate a negative feedback of dirty technology,” said Melanie Finan, quoted in the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent.