Feds want 30 more days on oil shale issues

The federal government says it now has the key people in place to evaluate legal challenges over oil shale decisions, but they still need to be brought up to speed on the matter.

As a result, the Obama administration is requesting a fourth extension of its deadline to respond to lawsuits challenging oil shale actions taken by the Bush administration.

Government attorneys asked for the extension last week. As with the government’s previous requests, the latest one is unopposed by other parties in the case, making it likely a judge will grant it.

The government faces an

Aug. 31 deadline to answer conservation groups’ lawsuits.

The suits challenge regulations issued by the Bureau of Land Management in November for commercial oil shale development, and the BLM’s earlier identification of 1.9 million acres of public land for potential oil shale development in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah.

After President Obama’s election, the government said it needed time for the new administration to determine the appropriate course of action.

In their last request for more time, officials had said they wanted to await the confirmations of Obama’s nominations of Bob Abbey as director of the BLM and Wilma Lewis as assistant secretary for lands and minerals management in the Interior Department.

The two, who will have oversight over oil shale matters, were confirmed Aug. 7 by the Senate.

“Although their nominations have been confirmed, Ms. Lewis and Mr. Abbey are in the process of being briefed on a number of issues that they will be required to address in their official capacities, including the issues raised in this case,” the government said in its motion Friday.

The government is seeking 30 more days to file its response.

Shell and the American Petroleum Institute have intervened in the case, and under the government’s motion would have 30 more days to respond to amendments that conservation groups made to their original litigation.


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