Garfield protests BLM shale plan

Arguing it failed to take technological advances into account, Garfield County is challenging a finalized federal government proposal slashing potentially available acreage for oil shale leasing in Colorado to a small fraction of its current amount.

County commissioners today agreed to file a formal protest of a revised Bureau of Land Management proposal that would make about 26,000 acres open for application for oil shale leasing in Colorado. That compares to about 360,000 acres made available in 2008 and about 35,000 acres in the BLM’s draft proposal earlier this year.

Across Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, the BLM is proposing making about 677,000 acres available for leasing application, down from about 2 million acres.

In Colorado, what are considered the world’s richest oil shale deposits are centered in Garfield and Rio Blanco counties.

Besides the protest, Garfield commissioners are filing a request for review of the BLM plan under the Information Quality Act. They say its current plan is based on an outdated 2008 study, and fails to consider subsequent technological improvements that have significantly reduced the water requirements associated with oil shale development and increased the amount of energy produced compared to what’s consumed in the process.

Garfield County also disputes the federal government’s contention that oil shale has yet to be proved commercially viable, citing work being done by companies such as Red Leaf Resources in Utah. Commissioner John Martin said the BLM’s actions to protect lands with wilderness characteristics under its revised shale plan also go against a congressional directive prohibiting spending federal money on that purpose.

The BLM also removed significant Colorado acreage to protect habitat for the greater sage-grouse to try to keep it from being listed as a threatened or endangered species.

Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said oil shale can be developed responsibly while benefiting Garfield, Rio Blanco and Mesa counties through jobs and revenues.

“It’s a resource that’s there and it’s available for our county and it’s available for the United States of America,” he said.

BLM spokesman David Boyd said the agency will respond to the county’s protest and any others after having a chance to thoroughly review them.



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