BLM oil shale scoping mtgs held May 3 and 4 in Colorado

BLM held public scoping meetings on May 3 and May 4 in Rifle and in Denver, respectively,  in its “process to take a fresh look” at commercial oil shale plans that were announced in 2008.


CWF made public comment —


Background: Secretary Salazar had announced the "fresh look" earlier
this year at to the 2008 regulations.  Under the 2008 regs, 2 million
acres of western federal public lands would be open (eligible) for
commercial oil shale leasing.  BLM has published a Notice of Intent to
Prepare a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) governing oil
shale resources on BLM  lands in the Piceance Basin (and in Utah and

In January 2007 BLM issued 5 RD&D (Research, Demonstration & Development)
oil shale leases to 3 companies within the Piceance Basin
including Shell.  These lessees were granted the ability to expand their
respective 160-acre leases to 5,120-acre commercial development leases
after conversion from the RD&D status.  A 2nd round of RD&D lease
applications was solicited by Department of Interior on November 3, 2009. 
After submitting proposals, two companies were nominated - Natural Soda
and ExxonMobil -- to conduct RD&D on 160-acre leases (which could be
expanded to 640 acres upon meeting criteria set by Secretary Salazar).  
At this time, these nominations are going through the BLM legal process.

The obvious question is why move forward at all with any commercial
leasing before results of round 1 RD&D and round 2, assuming it goes forward,
are forthcoming and demonstrate technical feasibility for commercial 
scale oil shale production, water use projections, etc.    Our CWF position 
has been exactly that: it is premature to conduct any commercial development leasing.

Water estimates continue to appear to be 3 barrels of water for each
barrel of production. Companies consistently have stated that determining 
commercial feasibility is at least 20 years off.  As you know, this also is 
very important wildlife habitat in the Piceance that has been leased 
extensively already for gas development. (CWF mapped mule deer severe winter 
range, elk winter concentration and severe winter range areas, and greater 
sage grouse ridge areas for our report on NW Colorado published in January 2010.)
The number of future  wellpads projected by gas companies in the Piceance Basin 
is alarming, exacerbating access issues, lack of quality experience in an
industrialized zone, as well as destruction of habitat.

Some companies have extensive private holdings in the Piceance.  They
claim that although within the oil shale formation, the private lands they
own are in the thinner less promising areas.

The US House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee majority intends 
to push for commercial leasing.  Apparently, they do not view RD&D findings as a prerequisite.