Ritter urges BLM to wait on its rules for oil shale leases

The federal government should refrain from issuing final regulations for commercial oil shale leasing until research plots “yield meaningful results,” Gov. Bill Ritter said Monday.

Ritter urged the Bureau of Land Management to take no action to adopt final regulations for oil shale leasing in a letter to BLM Director James Caswell.

The agency is forbidden from adopting final regulations for commercial leasing through at least the end of September, which also is the end of the fiscal year.

Congress is considering extending its moratorium on leasing into the coming fiscal year. It passed the moratorium last year at the request of Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo.

The bureau, however, has released draft regulations and an environmental impact statement outlining the areas in which oil shale leasing would be allowed, should the federal government allow it.

Three companies are working on five oil shale research-and-development leases in northwest Colorado, but the most well-known of them, Shell Oil Co., has said it is years from deciding whether to pursue commercial production.

If the bureau completes regulations for commercial oil shale leasing without information from the research leases, “those regulations will be premature, not well-founded, and perhaps inappropriate or incomplete,” Ritter wrote.

Opponents of the moratorium, including Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., have said the lack of regulations, especially ones that would establish how much money companies would pay the federal government for shale on federal land, hamstrings those companies.

Oil companies, however, need to know more than the royalty they would pay, Ritter wrote.

“To delay finalization of regulations will not slow down an oil shale industry that has not yet begun,” he said. “On the contrary, it will ensure that a vibrant oil shale industry might get off the ground with adequate protections for Colorado’s environment, communities and coffers.”

The U.S. House last week passed a measure that included provisions sought by a Utah Democrat that would lift the moratorium and allow states to decide whether to allow commercial oil shale production.


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