Penry, McInnis bash Ritter’s oil shale position

The two Grand Junction Republicans hoping to replace Gov. Bill Ritter said a federal oil shale decision supported by Ritter offers little hope to the Western Slope economy.

Ritter, a Democrat seeking his second term next November, said he supported a second round of oil shale research leases, plus a sharp reduction in the size of commercial leases, should any ever be granted.

“We were hoping that Gov. Ritter might step out of (President) Obama’s shadow and stick up for Colorado, but apparently not,” Scott McInnis’ campaign spokesman Sean Duffy said.

“Whatever the details,” state Sen. Josh Penry said, “I can’t think that (Interior Secretary) Ken Salazar and Barack Obama are going to let a commercial operation go forward.”

Penry, who has advocated a go-slow effort on oil shale in the past, said questions about the use of water remain, and there should be a “legitimate, science-based effort to see if the water question can be answered.”

The approach advocated by Salazar and Ritter is “an extension of the imbalanced attack on family-sustaining jobs in the natural gas industry,” Duffy said.

In his statement, Ritter said the economic potential for oil shale in Colorado is huge.

“But the prospect of commercial-scale activities raises significant questions about how oil shale can be successfully integrated into our state’s economy and how we can protect the state’s environment, water and communities,” he said.

Meanwhile, the two congressmen whose districts include the nation’s richest deposits of oil shale are split on the Obama administration’s plans for those lands.

U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., whose 3rd Congressional District includes the richest of the shales, said he supports the second round of leases proposed Tuesday by his brother, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, whose Utah district includes that state’s shale, said the decision was disappointing because it prohibited commercial development.

John Salazar supports a second round of research leasing because it “can help us answer fundamental questions about water and power needs related to oil shale,” his Washington, D.C., office said.

Those concerns were mirrored by Ken Salazar when he announced the second round on Tuesday. He also announced he was asking the inspector general to look into the way the department handled the leases during the closing days of the Bush administration.

In Utah, Matheson said several companies are working with promising technology that could unlock oil shale’s commercial potential in an environmentally responsible way.

“Without a level playing field at the federal level, their efforts are stalled,” Matheson said.

Matheson suggested states should be allowed to opt in to the federal government’s leasing program.

“New methodology is on the horizon in Utah.  It should be allowed to compete for commercial development. (Tuesday’s) decision by Interior is unfair economic policy and unwise energy policy,” Matheson said.

Colorado, Utah and Wyoming have the nation’s most significant oil shale deposits. Several companies in Colorado, notably Shell Oil, are experimenting with ways to heat shale in place to release kerogen, which then can be refined into gasoline and other consumer products.


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