BLM to revamp oil shale rules, plans

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said today the federal government will reconsider decisions during the Bush administration establishing commercial oil shale rules and allocating 2 million acres for possible development.

The announcement marks an attempt by the Bureau of Land Management to settle lawsuits challenging those decisions.

Salazar said in a teleconference that the BLM previously “put the cart in front of the horse” in putting royalty rates and other rules in place when oil shale technologies remain in the research and development stage.

With companies saying commercial development is still years away, “we have time to update the development rules and get them right,” Salazar said.

BLM director Bob Abbey said the agency isn’t sure that 2 million acres should be allocated for oil shale development but is willing to revisit the issue.

In coming months, the public will have the opportunity to provide input on oil shale rules and land allocations. Any changes the BLM makes will be based on the latest research and technology related to considerations such as water demand, and on the need to make sure shale development provides a fair return to taxpayers, Abbey said.

The BLM previously revised eight land management plans to identify potential areas of oil shale development in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah.

During the Bush administration, the BLM also issued six research and development leases, five of them in Colorado, in Rio Blanco County. The BLM currently is considering issuing three more such leases. Salazar and Abbey said today’s announcement doesn’t affect the existing or proposed leases, which are needed to continue investigation into whether oil shale development is commercially viable and can contribute to the nation’s energy needs. 


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