Official: Lack of royalty hamstrings oil shale biz

A ban on commercial leasing of oil shale on federal lands picked up support Tuesday.

A coalition including several sporting organizations, environmental groups and a taxpayers organization called for extending a ban on adopting regulations on shale.

The moratorium is set to expire at the end of this month, but it could be extended through a continuing resolution that continues the current budget and policies.

Interest in oil shale is being driven by “panic-button policy,” Rio Blanco County rancher Kathleen Kelly said in a telephone conference call with reporters.

Rio Blanco County contains some of the world’s most promising deposits of oil shale and was at the epicenter of the last shale boom.

It collapsed in 1982.

The federal royalty on oil shale needs to be set high, said Jill Lancelot of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a Washington, D.C.-based organization.

“We strongly believe the royalty should be determined after we know what the industry will look like,” Lancelot said.

Companies working on oil shale, however, are hamstrung by the lack of a royalty, which is established in setting regulations, said Glenn Vawter, executive director of the National Oil Shale Association.

“Without the ground rules on royalties and leasing and front-end payments, it’s hard for companies to make decisions,” Vawter said.

The Bureau of Land Management sought comment on royalty proposals ranging from 5 percent to 12 percent to a sliding scale.

Developing oil shale also poses serious environmental issues, said Craig Thompson of Western Wyoming Community College.

“Oil shale is a dirty, toxic excuse for a fuel,” Thompson said.

When he learned of renewed interest in it, he said he wondered, “Have we gotten that desperate?”


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