Congressman seeks to strike mandatory leasing requirements from transportation bill
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Congressman Jared Polis took a strong stand on oil shale development this week, seeding to strike from a federal highway bill a provision that would require commercial leasing.
In a prepared statement, the Colorado Democrat said that oil shale development won’t produce affordable American energy, won’t create jobs, and won’t provide new revenues.
Coloradans from both parties oppose the leases, fearing impacts to the state’s agriculture and recreation economy by depleting limited water resources and allowing oil companies to lock away more public land at fire sale prices.
“We’ve heard of Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 proposal; oil shale is the 0-0-0 proposal — no energy, no revenue, and no jobs,” said Polis. “It’s worth research, and there are plenty of research leases out there, but it isn’t ready for prime-time. We shouldn’t risk thousands of real Colorado jobs in agriculture or our recreation economy on a giveaway to oil companies. Congress shouldn’t hand two million acres of public lands to oil shale speculators and lock these areas away from Colorado families, ranchers and recreation jobs.”
According to the Bureau of Land Management, industrial scale oil shale development could require as much as 150 percent of the amount of water the Denver Metro Area consumes annually. With waters such as the Colorado River already overtaxed, there simply might not be enough water to facilitate oil shale development, and even less water for agriculture and in-stream flows affecting anglers, recreation and the needs of local communities.
The Rocky Mountain Farmer’s Union, representing about 20,000 family farmers and ranchers in Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico, has expressed strong opposition to oil shale leasing being included in the transportation bill. They sent a letter to several members expressing concern about the underlying provision and a offered a statement of support for the Polis amendment. Sportsman and conservation advocates, like Trout Unlimited have also endorsed the Polis amendment.
Originally included to provide revenues to pay for the highway bill, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office found the provision actually failed to raise any revenue, due to the fact that oil shale is not commercially viable.