Garfield County OKs joint oil shale resolution | AspenTimes.com
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Garfield County OKs joint oil shale resolution

John StroudPost Independent Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Garfield County commissioners unanimously approved a resolution Monday providing harsh comment on the Bureau of Land Management’s proposal to cut the amount of acreage available for oil shale research and development.The decision came after more than two hours of public testimony, mostly in opposition to the harsh political tone of the county’s position. Many also supported the new BLM preferred alternative.”This resolution misrepresents the facts and does not represent Garfield County,” Silt resident Bill Harding said, reminding the commissioners of the past boom and bust cycle of oil shale development.”We went through the devastating effects of two busts on the promise of oil from rock,” he said. “It’s time that we learn from this.”Garfield County became the first of 13 affected counties in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming to sign the joint resolution. The resolution originated from aMarch meeting in Vernal, Utah, of county commissioners from the affected counties.The multi-county position statement supports the 2008 plan, which opened up nearly 2 million acres of federal land in the three states to oil shale and tar sands research, demonstration projects and eventual development (RD&D).That plan, approved in the waning days of the Bush administration, would free up about 346,000 acres of BLM land in Colorado for oil shale RD&D.The new BLM preferred alternative would reduce the leasing to 462,000 acres, including about 35,000 acres in northwest Colorado.”I can’t fathom why that wouldn’t be enough land for study purposes,” Glenwood Springs resident Gerry Vanderbeek said. “This plan would still give almost half a million acres for study and review.”Vanderbeek and others also objected to the political tone of the joint resolution, which is highly critical of the federal government, under President Obama and Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar, for reopening the review process.”This resolution has a very negative tone … which just takes away from the real issue,” Vanderbeek said.

The joint resolution takes the BLM to task for allegedly basing its revised position on “anti-oil-shale and pro-wilderness groups.”Revisions to the former EIS were agreed to by the federal government in a 2009 legal settlement between the BLM and 13 environmental groups that filed suit over the Bush-era plan.”Are there some harsh words in here? Yes, there are,” Commissioner Mike Samson said in supporting the resolution. “We’re tired of things being done against us in western Colorado, so there is some resentment on our part.”He said the energy companies already working to study oil shale should be able to proceed without changing the rules along the way.”Maybe this is what it takes to get Congress’ attention,” he said. “Instead of fighting energy development at every step of the way, we’re saying please work with us.”Commissioner Tom Jankovsky has been the lead representative for Garfield County as an official cooperating agency working with the BLM on the EIS revision.He said the new BLM preferred alternative wasn’t even contemplated until late in the game last fall.”This came down from the highest level in the Secretary of the Interior’s office,” Jankovsky said.Lacking a viable oil shale research and development program, as spelled out in the 2008 plan, Jankovsky said the region runs the risk of another oil shale rush in the future without adequate research.”We will all be impacted very drastically if that happens,” he said.

In their decision, county commissioners, at Samson’s request, did work to remove some of assertions made in the draft resolution.One statement had characterized oil shale as “proven beyond a doubt to be technologically and economically feasible.” The county’s revised statement removed the words “beyond a doubt.””I do have problems with that, because I’m not totally sure that it has been proven to be economically feasible,” Samson said. “That’s what they are trying to determine.”The draft resolution also asserted that oil shale development “requires little to no consumption of water, contrary to the myths which falsely claim that oil shale extraction requires large consumption of water resources.”Samson convinced the commissioners to revise that statement to say: “Some processes require little to no consumption of water.””Some of the extraction processes do require a lot of water,” Samson said. “If it were up to me, I would say to those who are developing oil shale that you’re not going to use extravagant amounts of water.”Some members of the public who spoke at Monday’s meeting supported the county’s position.”I think I represent the silent majority,” Silt-area rancher Dick Morgan said. “We are a country that moves on energy, and I think this is being done in the best way it can be.”Oil shale is possibly an alternative, and we need to look at every source we have to address the energy needs of this country,” Morgan said.Meanwhile, Rifle City Council is also considering a statement on the BLM’s preferred alternative for oil shale. It has placed the item on its April 18 agenda to hear public testimony and to take a position.jstroud@postindependent.com


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