BLM releases oil shale Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement

On November 9, 2012, the BLM released its final programmatic environmental impact statement (FPEIS) for oil shale.  CWF applauds the BLM’s decision, consistent with our earlier support of its draft preferred alternative in May.

How much water would be required per barrel of oil produced remains an unknown as the research continues to find provable technology to support a commercial level of production.  BLM has not changed its estimate of the amount of water-per-barrel  produced for in situ type of development at 1 to 3 barrels of water per barrel of oil.

The FPEIS would exclude from commercial development on federal public lands in this area critical mule deer winter range and core or priority greater sage habitat ( as defined by guidance as BLM or Dept. of Interior may issue).

The total acreage that could become available for commercial development in Colorado on federal public lands is 26,259 acres.  The 2008 plan would have opened 346,609 acres of federal public lands in Colorado’s Piceance Basin to oil shale development – without requiring results of RD&D (research, demonstration and development) leases.

Under the FPEIS, “the BLM would issue a commercial lease on federal public lands only when the lessee satisfies the conditions of its RD&D lease and the regulations at 43 CFR Subpart 3926 for conversion to a commercial lease.  The preference right acreage,  if any, which would be included in the converted lease, would be specified in the RD&D lease.”   In addition, the FEIS specifies certain circumstances where a RD&D lease would not be required:  “In addition, the Secretary may issue a commercial lease on the lands open under Alternative 2(b) where the potential commercial lessee intends to employ technology that has been proven commercially viable on nonfederal lands in the study area (i.e., in the Green River formation basin in Colorado) and that the Secretary determines to be environmentally acceptable.”

In the region, including northeastern Utah and southwestern Wyoming as well as Colorado, approximately 1000 square miles or 800,000 acres of federal public lands will be available for oil shale and tar sands development – under the conditions noted above.  The 2008 plan would have opened approximately 2 million acres.