Oil shale group assails studies as negative

Recent studies calling into question the environmental effects of oil shale development serve to “unnecessarily heighten public anxiety” about development, the industry association said.

The National Oil Shale Association cited three reports over the past year, the most recent by Western Resource Advocates, that called into question the viability of an oil shale industry.

None of the reports assesses any benefits that might be expected from oil shale development,
such as distribution of royalties, taxes, economic development opportunities and a sustainable employment base, the Glenwood Springs-based association said in a statement.

A study conducted by the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado Association of Governments based forecasts on the growth associated with development of tar sands in Alberta, Canada.

That study, the National Oil Shale Association said, failed to offer a reliable projection of development, but was nonetheless used to project population growth and then to forecast water use by the Colorado, White River and Yampa river basin roundtables.

The studies, released last year, “tend to create public fear and may stymie the current efforts by industry to perfect technologies that can meet regulatory, economic and public expectations,” according to the oil shale association.

The criticism is fair as far as it goes, said Aron Diaz, executive director of the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado.

“We do understand there are some big differences” between the tar sands and oil shale, but the tar sands model was the one considered most prudent.

“Local government is not ready for full-scale development” of oil shale, Diaz said. “We’re more interested in making sure local, state and federal government recognize that local government will need a lot of help up front to make sure the industry can thrive.”

The roundtable study also appears to overstate demand for water, the industry association said, because it fails to anticipate the demands of different technologies.

The roundtable study predicted an annual demand of 400,000 acre feet of water but that “a realistic large-growth scenario would be half of that, or less,” the association said.

An inventory of water rights held by energy companies also overstates the holdings because the count by Western Resource Advocates includes all the rights held by the Colorado River Water Conservation District and the Yellow Jacket Water Conservancy District, the oil shale association said.

That inventory did include the entire holdings of the river district, spokesman Chris Treese said.
It’s unlikely that the district would devote all its water rights to industrial uses for oil shale, Treese said.


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