Garfield adopts shale resolution over residents’ objections

Over the objections of numerous local residents, Garfield County commissioners this morning unanimously approved a resolution highly critical of the Bureau of Land Management’s proposal to sharply reduce acreage available for potential oil shale development.

Commissioners endorsed a document also to be considered by other counties in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah after representatives from the counties met in Vernal, Utah, to discuss their concerns with the BLM proposal.

Residents today objected to the resolution’s tone and political nature, voiced fears about possible health and environmental impacts of oil shale development, and appealed to the commissioners to consider the impacts of prior oil shale booms and busts.

“It’s time we learn from this,” said Silt resident Bill Harding, who said he’s a survivor of the oil shale bust of the early 1980s.

He called the BLM’s draft proposal a balanced one and suggested it’s not what is standing in the way of oil shale development.

“The barrier to commercial development seems to be the rock itself,” he said.

But commissioners object to the BLM’s proposal to cut potentially available oil shale acreage by about 90 percent in Colorado, to 35,300 acres, and to reduce the three-state total from about 2 million acres to 462,000.

The resolution calls for the BLM to stick with the previous land allocations for oil shale, adopted in 2008. The BLM agreed to reconsider those allocations and commercial shale development rules under agreements to settle two lawsuits with conservation groups.

Garfield Commissioner Mike Samson said the regulatory flux is difficult for the industry.

“Follow the policy that’s in place; that’s all we’re asking,” said Garfield Commissioner John Martin.

The resolution accuses the Department of Energy of having “basically abdicated” its responsibility to uphold and defend a viable oil shale program, “leaving it instead to the BLM encumbered by a host of anti-oil shale pro-wilderness groups steering BLM’s every move.”


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