Poll shows support for development

GOLDEN — Nearly two-thirds of Utah and some northwest Colorado residents support development of oil shale, according to a public opinion poll commissioned by a company developing oil shale in the Uintah Basin.

The oil shale industry, nonetheless, has much to do in western Colorado and the rest of the state to gain acceptance, said Bonnie Petersen, executive director of Club 20, the West Slope lobbying and promotional organization.

“You need to talk to all the cities on the Front Range, where they don’t believe you can get oil from shale,” Petersen said, citing the Denver City Council’s opposition to oil shale development.

Memories of the shutdown of the Colony oil shale project near Parachute still haunt the region, Petersen said, telling some 200 people not to repeat the sins of the past: “Don’t do what Exxon did in 1982,” Petersen said.

Oil shale development is far more than a parochial issue, said David Abelson of Crescent Strategies of Boulder, who identified himself as an opponent of development.

Even though northwest Colorado holds the world’s richest oil shale deposits, there are other interests in the region that can’t be ignored, such as recreation and environmental concerns.

And, “People in New York and Chicago have a vested interest in those public lands,” Abelson said.

The oil shale industry should look to the battles over hydraulic fracturing, Abelson said.

“Oil shale is lucky. You do have time for dialogue,” Abelson said.

Enefit American Oil, which is working on mostly state and private lands in Utah, commissioned the public opinion poll, said Brian Wilkinson, a public relations consultant from Salt Lake City.

Some 75 percent of respondents considered Enefit to be a positive influence on the economy.

In working to obtain a “social license to operate,” Enefit gains from operating in Utah, Wilkinson said.

“If we were located two miles to the east, in Colorado, the story would be very different,” Wilkinson said.


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