Bill proposes federal funds to speed oil shale development

A bill proposed by a Texas congressman would require the federal government to spend $10 million a year through 2017 to address hurdles to the development of oil shale.

H.R. 6603 is to be heard Friday before the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Texas, the author of the measure, dubbed the Tapping America’s Energy Potential through Research and Development Act of 2012.

The measure would encourage and expand production “of our vast domestic resources to help put Americans back to work,” Hall said in a statement. “In addition to providing hundreds of thousands of much-needed jobs, safe and prudent development of these resources would redraw the global energy map, positioning the U.S. as a world leader in energy production for decades to come.”

Sporting organizations, meanwhile, released videos on Wednesday calling for careful approaches to oil shale development, citing in particular the potential water demand of an oil shale industry.

Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development is advocating more research before the Bureau of Land Management considers expanding existing research, development and demonstration leases into commercial leases.

The BLM is overseeing several 160-acre experimental leases in Colorado in which companies are testing ways of heating oil shale deep below the surface to the point that it releases a petroleum-like product that can be refined into transportation fuels.

At the same time, it also is completing work on environmental studies aimed at cutting the amount of land that could be considered for leasing from 2 million acres to about 677,000 acres, including about 36,000 acres in Colorado, which contains the deepest and richest deposits.

The BLM also has yet to release proposed regulations to oil shale production, including the setting of a royalty rate for shale on public lands.

Hall’s measure calls for the Department of Energy to detail “constraints and opportunities affecting oil shale development” as well as identify ways to enable development and prioritize research, development and demonstration projects.

A spokesman for U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., whose 3rd Congressional District includes the Colorado deposits of oil shale, wasn’t consulted on the measure, according to Tipton’s Washington, D.C. office.

Hall’s measure also would direct the Energy Department to conduct similar studies of natural gas- and oil-bearing shales, as well as hydraulic fracturing, the technique used to recover resources from those formations.


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