Groups differ on tallies of oil shale support

A Denver-based watchdog group is disputing a Grand Junction entity’s contention that most organizations that commented on a new federal oil shale study support keeping about 2 million acres open for possible oil shale development in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah.

The Checks and Balances Project is taking issue with the analysis of Environmentally Conscious Consumers for Oil Shale, and contending ECCOS is merely an industry front group. In a news conference with Club 20, the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce and the Mesa County Commission earlier this month, ECCOS Executive Director Brad McCloud said 45 organizations supported the oil shale acreage allocated by the Bureau of Land Management under the Bush administration in 2008. He said 25 split their endorsements between four other alternatives analyzed by the BLM in a recent study in which it proposed sharp reductions in acreage potentially available for leasing.

Matt Garrington, co-director of the Checks and Balances Project, said his group found that 51 percent of local governments, industry entities, conservation groups and other organizations submitting comments to the BLM on its study oppose the Bush plan while 37 percent support it.

“It’s ridiculous that they’re claiming that a majority supported the Bush plan when in fact a majority opposed the Bush plan,” he said.

“We stand by our numbers,” McCloud responded.

One reason behind discrepancies between the two groups’ numbers apparently stems from the fact that McCloud counted every letter to the BLM as being from just one organization, even if several signed on to it.

Checks and Balances also counted as opponents to the 2008 plan Front Range water entities that didn’t support any specific BLM alternative proposal, but told the BLM they welcomed its decision to take a “fresh look” at its 2008 proposal.

“We think if they’re asking for a fresh look, then that’s saying that the original plan should be changed,” Garrington said.

McCloud said that where comments didn’t specifically endorse or support an alternative, he didn’t consider it appropriate to make assumptions about their positions.

Checks and Balances questions the objectivity of ECCOS. McCloud works for EIS Solutions, which does consulting work on behalf of the energy industry. ECCOS also has a board member, Laura Nelson, who works for Red Leaf Resources, an oil shale company in Utah.

McCloud said EIS works for all kinds of organizations. He said ECCOS has just one board member from the industry, and it’s appropriate to have that industry perspective on the board.

He said he found it interesting that groups in places like Denver “seem to be taking a considerable interest in the communities, jobs and the water in rural western Colorado, Wyoming and Utah.”


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