Oil Shale – Rushing Ahead With No Place To Go

It’s been called fool’s gold for a reason. For decades, energy companies have tried to extract oil from rock, but oil shale technology has never been developed to make large-scale production economically viable or environmentally sound.

Even the oil and gas industry admits that a viable oil shale technology is years, if not decades, away.

Yet, despite large public concern, Congress has given the go-ahead for oil shale development on public lands in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming, three states that are home to major oil shale deposits.

Oil shale is a sedimentary rock containing kerogen which, when heated to extreme temperatures, yields oil.

When the Bureau of Land Management issued a draft environmental impact statement about oil shale development in western states earlier this year, it garnered huge attention. Nearly 105,000 public comments came in during a 120-day period, many identifying significant problems from shale’s highly polluting processes to the huge amount of water required.

The comments wisely pointed out inaccurate estimates of water available in the Colorado River Basin to support a commercial oil shale industry and the BLM’s utter disregard for the potential global warming impacts of pursuing oil shale without significant additional research.

But the BLM made no adjustments to its plans.

As a result, on Oct. 6, The Wilderness Society sent a letter of protest to the Interior Department about the manner in which the BLM is ignoring the public and side-stepping bedrock environmental laws with regard to oil shale.

“This administration willingly sacrificed good governance in favor of using their last days in office to fork more public lands over to the oil and gas industry,” said Nada Culver, senior counsel for The Wilderness Society’s BLM Action Center.

“In this case, the BLM denied the public its basic right to protest land management plans that could affect their ways of life. Unfortunately, this denial also violates federal law,” she said.

Ironically, even though the government is trying to rush into leasing new public lands for oil shale, more than three million acres of oil shale lands in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming are already in private hands and have been for decades. In other words, industry has ample resources already at their disposal to begin developing a commercial-scale industry without the need for large scale commercial leasing of the public lands.

The Wilderness Society will continue to fight the mad, premature rush to develop oil shale on our public lands. We’ll report more as the story develops, so keep checking back!
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