Garfield County: No new oil shale leasing until research is finished |

Garfield County: No new oil shale leasing until research is finished

Phillip Yates
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” The Garfield Coun­ty commissioners on Monday approved public comments asking the Bureau of Land Management that no new leases for oil shale leasing go forward in western Col­orado until research and development to extract the resource is completed.

That is an alternative the BLM is not cur­rently contemplating in its draft environ­mental impact statement about possible oil shale leasing in the western United States, which was released in December.

Because the BLM is expected to choose an alternative that would take action on commercial oil shale leasing, the commis­sioners would rather the BLM select an alternative that limits the amount of acreage open to oil shale leasing in Col­orado to 40,325 acres.

The 40,325-acre figure is much lower than the Bureau of Land Management pre­ferred alternative, which calls for about 359,798 acres in Colorado to be open for possible oil shale development. In that alternative, about 2 million acres in Col­orado, Utah and Wyoming could be iden­tified as areas for possible oil shale leasing. The county’s public comments about oil shale leasing ” which are not the county’s final position on the matter ” will be sub­mitted to the BLM before the agency’s Thursday public comment deadline. The county’s comments were drafted by Jesse Smith, former assistant county manager.

Companies have been trying for years to develop an economically feasible way of extracting the vast oil shale reserves in several Western states. A renewed interest in the ener­gy source has developed because of high oil prices and diminishing world oil supplies. Last year, the BLM issued three companies five 160-acre oil shale research, development and demonstration leases in northwest Colorado. It is the county’s preference that before a final analysis of a preferred alternative is completed, results from those current research and development leases “should be obtained and evaluated, along with cumulative impacts of the alternative.”

That was a tack Commissioner Tresi Houpt took on Monday.

“I think we need to be clear it makes no sense to put a leasing program together until we know what we are working with,” Houpt said.

She also wanted to emphasize that fact the 40,325-acre alternative for oil shale is “not our preferred alternative.”

Commissioner Larry McCown said he had a problem with the county taking a position that oil shale research and devel­opment be completed before possible oil shale leases are issued. He said that was never an alternative the BLM considered or will consider.

“It is like wishing Santa Claus would come twice a year,” McCown said.

Besides the alternatives for how much acreage could be open for oil shale devel­opment, the county’s comments addressed many matters.

The county would also ask that the final programmatic environmental impact state­ment (PEIS) include a policy statement that requires companies that have oil shale leas­es to work with local and county govern­ments and accept financial responsibility for developing and funding energy-related public services required. A “commitment to continuously provide for air quality moni­toring and mitigation,” along with addition­al requirements for power and water gener­ation should also be included in the PEIS, according to the county.

The county, in its comments, also wrote that the PEIS was “very unclear if possible commercial leasing would occur south of the Roan Plateau,” and that the PEIS referred to federal, state and property own­er reviews, but omitted references to local government review and approval. The PEIS also did not did not address about how, or if, local land use codes and regula­tions would be considered in the commer­cial leasing process.

Another concern for the county was that there was not an “adequate discussion” of from where water needed for the oil shale alternatives would come.