Oil shale cut from transportation bill

Two Republican congressmen from Colorado indicated Wednesday their party’s legislative attempts to foster more energy development, including of oil shale, appear doomed following U.S. Senate action this week.

The Senate approved a transportation and infrastructure bill Wednesday, a day after defeating an amendment that would have approved the Keystone XL Pipeline, expanded offshore drilling, drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and expedited oil shale development.

The oil shale components were similar to those in the PIONEERS Act, sponsored by Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo. They included a requirement to lease federal acreage for commercial development and to make 2 million federal acres open for potential leasing.

Lamborn’s measure had passed the House and it ended up including the other major energy development provisions proposed by Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., in his Senate amendment.

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., told The Daily Sentinel a transportation bill needs to be passed by Congress by the end of the month.

“I don’t think any of Boehner’s energy provisions, or Lamborn’s oil shale measure, will be included,” Tipton said,  referring to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who has sought to include the energy provisions in the transportation bill.

The energy development provisions were “basically a smorgasbord of Big Oil giveaways in one amendment,” said Matt Garrington of the Checks and Balances Project, a Denver-based watchdog group.

Garrington said Roberts sought in his defeated Senate amendment “to solve our transportation and energy needs with an oil shale industry that does not exist.”

Companies have yet to successfully develop oil shale commercially. Boehner wants to use energy revenues, including from oil shale development, to help fund transportation needs, but the Congressional Budget Office found that Lamborn’s shale bill would have no significant short-term effect on federal revenue.

U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, both Democrats from Colorado, voted against the Senate amendment, which was defeated 57–41.

Lamborn said in an email, “I will continue to work with my House colleagues to seek ways to open up access to America’s vast energy reserves. Unfortunately, the Democrat-controlled Senate has rejected our all-of-the-above approach to energy.

“Perhaps with gasoline prices rising with no end in sight, the American people will send Washington a clear message that we must move forward with a common-sense plan for increasing our energy production. It may take another election cycle before we get a Senate willing to listen to the American people and support our plan.”


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What is “common sense” about expecting oil shale to fund a transportation bill today? Oil shale is and may always be the fuel of the future. It isn’t going to be paying for any jobs or highways in the short term.

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