BLM extends oil shale comment period |

BLM extends oil shale comment period

Phillip Yates
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” The Bureau of Land Management announced Thursday that it would extend the public comment period for a draft plan that could open about 360,000 acres in Colorado to oil shale leasing by another 30 days. The previous deadline for public comments was Thursday.

U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., local groups, and area governments, including Rifle, Silt and Pitkin County, had all asked for an extension of the public comment period.

“Offering an additional 30 days for interested citizens to comment is another in a series of actions we feel are important in working with states and local communities on developing federal oil shale resources, while also meeting the direction Congress has provided,” said BLM Director James Caswell.

The BLM’s draft programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS), which was released in December, envisions three different scenarios for possible oil shale leasing in Colorado. One would be a no-action alternative, another would open 359,798 acres in the state, while a third would designate 40,325 acres to possible oil shale leasing.

The Associated Press reported earlier this week that the agency would not likely extend the deadline. However, that was not the case, said Heather Feeney, a spokeswoman for the BLM, calling the wire service’s reporting a misunderstanding.

Salazar, who sent a letter to the U.S. Department of the Interior asking for a 60-day extension earlier this week, said he was glad the BLM extended the public comment deadline.

“The BLM’s 30-day extension is a step in the right direction to allow a more thoughtful review of the draft PEIS by affected local communities, citizens and public interest groups,” Salazar said in a prepared statement. “Oil shale development is a complicated process that has the potential for tremendous social, environmental and economic impacts on the Western Slope and many questions still remain.”

An extension of the deadline was a good move because it gives residents more time to digest the 1,400-page PEIS, said Duke Cox, interim director for the Western Colorado Congress, a group that advocates responsible environmental stewardship.

Cox said that the BLM probably moved to extend the deadline because many organizations, towns and communities asked for a “little more time.”

“I think that is why the BLM did the right thing and gave (us) another 30 days,” Cox said. “I think that will probably be sufficient.”

On Thursday, Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter announced that he had submitted comments on behalf of the state about the PEIS. He said there are too many unanswered questions surrounding the development of oil shale.

“We continue to support the research, development and demonstration process now under way, but the (research and development) process should be completed prior to the issuance of commercial oil shale leases and prior to the finalization of any regulations,” Ritter said in a prepared statement.

For more information or to submit an electronic comment on the PEIS go Send written comments to: BLM Oil Shale and Tar Sands Resources Draft Programmatic EIS Comments, Argonne National Laboratory, 9700 S. Cass Ave., Argonne, IL 60439.


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