Energy bill bad for Colorado
It’s been two and a half decades since the last big push to unlock the oil shale wealth trapped in the Western Slope. Technological challenges and falling oil prices doomed that earlier effort. But with oil prices reaching new highs in recent months, interest has rebounded. And this time Republicans are stacking the deck in industry’s favor. The Republican Congress is on the verge of passing a law that would allow energy companies to extract billions of dollars worth of oil from western Colorado tax-free for several years, if not forever. Combined with the Bush administration’s longstanding effort to open the wilderness to mining and logging, this bill, HR 4671, represents a real threat to our environment and our economy.The vast shale deposits between Rifle and Battlement Mesa at the center of oil shale country brush up against the White River National Forest, which surrounds Aspen and is the heart of the region’s recreation-centered economy.HR 4671 requires that the Interior Department manage oil shale resources the same way Canada manages exploitation of its tar sands in northern Alberta. Unfortunately, Canada’s management of its tar sands has come at a high cost to its taxpayers and its environment.Canadian tar sands producers pay very little in royalties, and it will be several years before meaningful royalties kick in. Meanwhile, their work has had a devastating effect on the environment. A Washington Post story in May painted a stark picture of the environmental costs of tar sands mining. The paper reported that mining is “taking an unexpectedly high environmental toll, sucking water from rivers and natural gas from wells and producing large amounts of gases linked to global warming.” Hunters, fishermen and farmers have lost their livelihoods as tar sand mining destroys the forests and rivers of northern Alberta. And by excusing producers from paying royalties, Canada has deprived itself of the most logical funding source for limiting and repairing the damage. Western Colorado shouldn’t have to sacrifice its environment and recreation-dependent economy to oil shale production. Encouraging shale mining by lowering royalties, at a time when oil companies are recording record profits and the United States is setting record deficits, just doesn’t make sense. Given the vital role wilderness plays in the region’s economy, the federal government should be making it more difficult – not less – for oil companies to forever alter the region.The bill has yet to pass the Senate. Now is the time to pressure our senators, Wayne Allard and Ken Salazar, to do the right thing and vote against HR 4671. Allard can be reached at (202) 224-5941, Salazar at (202) 224-5852. We urge you to give them a call and let them know what you think.
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