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