Businesses urge BLM to rethink Bush-era stance toward oil shale

Club 20 and the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce got it wrong when they asked the Bureau of Land Management to stick with the George W. Bush plan for oil shale, two western Colorado businesses, among others, said.

“We believe that before moving forward with commercial oil shale leasing, energy companies should prove that there is a commercially viable technology,” several businesses said in a letter to the two organizations. “We also need to know the full impacts on our water supplies, in terms of both quality and quantity.”

Club 20 and chamber officials said the letter misses the point of comments they made earlier this month.

The businesses “support the Bureau of Land Management’s work to develop an oil shale leasing policy and land management plan that protects our water and our economy,” the letter said. “We believe that we should not put existing jobs and businesses at risk simply to engage in oil shale speculation.”

The letter is a “caution flag” intended to point out that the demands of an oil shale industry on the region’s water are unknown, Tom Kleinschnitz of Adventure Bound River Expeditions in Grand Junction said in an interview. “The jury is not in about how much water it will take to fully implement a good oil shale extraction system.”

The organizations should do more to look to the needs of existing businesses and employers, said Seth Anderson, owner of sportswear company Loki.

“It makes no sense to put our water, our businesses, and our jobs at risk for costly oil shale speculation,” Anderson said.

That’s exactly the point of the organizations’ press conference earlier this month, said Club 20 Executive Director Bonnie Petersen.

The plan approved by the Bush administration in 2008 was intended to encourage research, demonstration and development of various techniques to draw petroleum from oil shale, Petersen said.

That approach “basically suggested a go-slow strategy” using research, demonstration and development, Petersen said.

The preferred alternative of the environmental study being performed by the Obama administration “is talking about pulling 90 percent of the acreage (in Colorado) off the table and that’s a jobs killer,” said Betsy Bair, government-affairs manager for the chamber.

Water could be an issue with development, Bair said, but noted that any commercial development would have to address environmental issues, including water.

Twelve Western Slope and eastern Utah businesses in outdoor recreation, farming, and manufacturing signed the letter. None of them were members of the chamber, Bair said.


COMMENTS

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The chamber and Club 20 are wrong. Water WILL be an issue with oil shale development. Whoever has the most money will buy the water rights from agricultural and recreational uses. We should carefully consider moving toward a one-economy county to a very diverse economy. Research is fine but at this point, it’s premature to support oil shale development.

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