GarCo commission endorses drafting oil-shale regs

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — A divided Garfield County commission on Monday came out in favor of the federal government proceeding with issuing regulations governing leasing of public lands for oil shale development.

In doing so, commissioners refused to endorse a draft letter that says it’s premature to put together regulations when the government doesn’t yet know what technologies will be used and what their impacts will be. The county’s oil and gas liaison, Judy Jordan, wrote that letter.

Commissioners instead voted 2-1 to have a letter drafted in favor of going forward with creating regulations.

The county plans to submit its input by the Sept. 22 deadline for commenting on the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s draft leasing regulation proposal.

A congressional moratorium against issuing final regulations is due to expire at month’s end, but U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., hopes to have it extended. The BLM earlier this month decided to set aside 1.9 million acres in the West, including about 360,000 acres in Colorado, for possible commercial oil shale development.

County Commissioner Larry McCown said the oil shale leasing rules are needed as companies pursue their current oil shale research and development.

“These folks have got to know the rules of engagement that they’re going to be developing toward,” he said.

But Commissioner Tresi Houpt spoke in favor of Jordan’s letter, saying energy companies don’t even yet know what might be commercially viable.

“Everything that goes into a regulation right now would be guesswork,” Houpt said.

Jordan said her draft letter was consistent with the county’s previous position voicing concern about the federal government acting prematurely on oil shale. She pointed to a study done earlier this year showing capital needs are outstripping resources in northwest Colorado due to ongoing natural gas development. The study worried about the possible additional impacts of oil shale development.

Jordan wrote, “There is no mechanism in the draft regulations to allow for the influx of capital to lay the foundation for the worker population” that would be needed for oil shale development.

McCown said one, and possibly two, environmental impact statements would be required before leasing could occur.

“This isn’t starting a hysterical situation where everyone’s going to come out and start up their (oil shale) retorts in the morning,” he said.


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