Salazar aims to slow oil shale leasing |

Salazar aims to slow oil shale leasing

Phillip Yates
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar said Tuesday that he will introduce legislation that would require several additional measures before any possible commercial oil shale leasing in the West.

The Colorado congressman’s proposed bill includes provisions that were in a Senate-passed 2005 energy bill, which Salazar said cleared the chamber on a broad bipartisan vote of 85-12. However, many of the Senate-passed provisions were later stripped, and the final bill had several “unrealistic deadlines,” according a statement from Salazar’s office.

“That language has been interpreted to require final leasing regulations and commencement of commercial oil shale leasing in 2008, before the results of important research and development have been completed and without any results of that research being known,” according to the statement.

Salazar’s new legislation would provide another year to analyze a plan to open nearly 2 million acres of federal land to development in western Colorado, eastern Utah and southwest Wyoming.

The bill would also allow a year for development of a commercial leasing program after the analysis is finished.

A hearing over the possibilities and implications of oil shale drilling is expected to be the focus of a Senate Energy Committee hearing on Thursday, representatives for both Salazar and Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., said Tuesday.

Measures in the Salazar bill, based on the 2005 legislation, would also require a report to Congress that would identify available technologies for extracting oil from shale and proposed lease terms before any commercial oil shale leasing would occur. It would also authorize the National Academy of Sciences to study and report the status of research and development efforts, along with socioeconomic impacts of oil shale production.

Salazar’s new bill would also require a site-specific environmental impact statement before a commercial oil shale lease sale and before any planned development.

Steve Wymer, a spokesman for Allard, said he could not speak about specifics of the bill because Allard’s office hadn’t fully reviewed Salazar’s proposed legislation late Tuesday. However, Wymer said Allard would not support any legislation “that further delays” the completion of oil shale leasing regulations.

“What we need to do is move forward with developing these regulations,” Wymer said. “Senator Allard is convinced that the majority of stakeholders on the Western Slope want to see that happen, and he is a supporter of that.”

Allard has joined with several other Republican lawmakers earlier this month for legislation that would increase domestic energy production by removing barriers to oil shale leasing.

The American Energy Production Act includes language that would repeal a one-year moratorium that prevents the Bureau of Land Management from approving final regulations for commercial leasing of oil shale. The language for that prohibition came in a $555-billion spending bill Congress passed last year.