Energy: BLM to study California fracking impacts

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Widespread deposits of valuable natural gas and oil in shale formations has spurred the fracking boom.

Some leasing likely to be on hold for at least a year

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Following a legal challenge, federal officials said last week they will re-evaluate the potential impacts of fracking to public lands in California. The federal environmental study will be accompanied by a statewide independent scientific assessment of fracking in central California.

The new studies were announced after a federal court upheld a legal challenge of the  BLM’s decision to auction off about 2,500 acres of land in Monterey County to oil companies. The lawsuit was brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club. Continue reading

Environment: Lawsuit challenges federal study on oil shale and tar sands development in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming

Oil shale tar sands map Green River formation

Potential oil shale and tar sands development areas in the Green River formation of Utah, Colorado and Wyoming.

Conservation groups say BLM missed key step in environmental study

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — A federal plan to develop oil shale and tar sands across about 800,000 acres of public lands in the West is missing a key piece, according to conservation groups, who say the Bureau of Land Management should have consulted with federal wildlife biologists before finalizing a major environmental study.

At issue are 9 BLM resource management plans in the Green River Formation of the Colorado River Basin, spread across parts of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. Several months ago, the BLM approved changes in those plans with a single programmatic environmental impact statement. The changes make 687,600 acres available for oil shale leasing and 132,100 acres available for tar sands leasing. Continue reading

Op-ed: GOP misleads Americans on energy and public lands

Paul Ryan makes blatantly false claims about energy development

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The proposed GOP budget includes plans to sell off public lands in the West. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — After licking his wounds for a few months, former Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan is picking up right where he left off, by misleading Americans about the Obama administration’s energy and public lands policies.

Most blatantly, Ryan this week wrote in the Wall Street Journal that the Obama administration is “buying up land to prevent further development” of energy resources. “Our budget opens these lands to development, so families will have affordable energy,” he added, playing to the lowest common denominator of his conservative base as if he were still campaigning for office.

Ryan’s simplistic and false statement about the connection between public lands and energy costs is flat-out wrong. Domestic energy production has grown under Obama; the administration has been leasing land for onshore production and selling offshore leases at a vigorous rate. Continue reading

Conservation groups challenge latest BLM oil shale plan

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Conservation groups have challenged a new BLM plan for oil shale leasing.

Groups say feds ignored climate impacts in environmental studies for plan

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Framed in the context of growing concern about global warming, the Center for Biological Diversity this week formally protested the latest scaled-back plan for oil shale and tar sands research and development in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.

The Grand Canyon Trust, Living Rivers and the Sierra Club also joined in the protest, claiming  the plan could unleash intensive greenhouse gas emissions, hasten the dry-up of the Colorado River, threaten wildlife and increase local and regional air pollution.

The protest is part of the formal BLM review and approval process, similar to an appeal of a U.S. Forest Service decision. The conservation groups claim that the BLM violated numerous provisions of various federal environmental laws and planning rules.

The BLM plan released last month calls for careful leasing of about 806,000 acres of public land where energy companies can try to solve the puzzle of in-situ development of oil shale. The 2012 plan resulted from the settlement of a 2009 lawsuit that challenged a previous version approved under the Bush administration that was criticized by conservation groups as a give-away to the energy industry.

Some advocates of careful oil shale research say the 2012 plan cut too much land, making it more difficult for energy companies to pursue oil shale development.

“Putting restrictions on the land doesn’t make a lot of sense to me … it would be better to let the companies decided what the best place is to operate,” said Colorado School of Mines professor Jeremy Boak, who specializes in oil shale research. “The restrictions seem extreme. Ninety percent of the land that has oil shale was taken out of play,” he said. Continue reading

Colorado: Public comments favor careful oil shale plan

Oil shale lands in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah.

Energy industry spin meisters skew interpretation of public comments on BLM draft plan

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Just a few weeks after oil shale advocates held a press conference touting alleged public support for an aggressive leasing plan favored under the Bush administration, a watchdog group is charging that the numbers were intentionally skewed by an industry front group.

ECCOS deliberately misled the public and trumped up support for a radical plan that puts our water and communities at risk from oil shale speculation,” said Matt Garrington, co-director of the Checks and Balances Project.

At issue are public comments on a draft oil shale leasing plan. The input was collected by the Bureau of Land Management during the public comment period. An older version of the plan approved under the Bush administration opened more than 2 million acres in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming to speculative leasing. Continue reading

Colorado: More wrangling over oil shale leasing plan

The BlM is evaluating comments on a draft oil shale leasing plan.

Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce, Club 20 endorse Bush-era vision for leasing; farmers, river users not happy

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Community and environmental advocates in Colorado say a mid-October press event touting support for a Bush-era oil shale leasing plan was engineered as a publicity stunt by an energy industry front group.

That may not be unusual in itself, but the group managed to entangle Club 20 and the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce in their web of deceit, and that has angered some western Colorado business owners.

“We’re disappointed in the Chamber. Local businesses deserve better,” said Adventure Bound River Expeditions owner Tom Kleinschnitz. “Colorado just went through our worst drought in ten years. Now is not the time to jeopardize the Colorado River – and the jobs that depend on that river – with costly oil shale speculation,” Kleinschnitz said. Continue reading

Environment: Colorado, Utah county officials may have met illegally to advocate for more oil shale development

A map from the draft environmental study for oil shale exploration and development identifies areas across the region where the resource is found.

Conservation groups say county commissioners may have violated open meeting laws

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY —County commissioners from three states — Colorado, Utah and Wyoming — cozied up with energy company executives and lobbyists at a closed-door meeting in Utah last spring to try and unify support for a Bush-era oil shale plan.

Several hundred pages of documents released June 14 by Colorado Common Cause show clearly that the meeting went far beyond the informational purposes cited by some of the county officials, to adopting a draft resolution opposing the Bureau of Land Management’s latest scaled-back version of an oil shale plan.

The documents related to the meeting are online at the Colorado Common Cause website, and also at the No More Empty Promises website, which is part of the watchdog Checks and Balances Project.

Conservation advocates say the participation in the meeting by elected county officials may have been unethical at best and illegal at worst, in violation of open-meeting laws. Continue reading

U.S. House strips oil shale subsidy by one vote

U.S. House strips a $25 million subsidy for oil shale research from a federal budget bill.

Congressman Jared Polis leads efforts to redirect funds toward budget deficit reduction

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Wednesday’s vote by the U.S. House to remove a federal $25 million subsidy for oil shale research probably won’t end the dream of developing vast quantities of fossil fuel in northwestern Colorado, but it may give some energy companies reason to pause before they put their own money on the line.

The subsidy was stripped away from an energy and water appropriations bill in a 208-207 vote after Colorado Democrat Jared Polis offered an amendment to redirect the funds toward deficit reduction.

The bill still has to go through the Senate, said Western Resource Advocates’ David Abelson.

“Historically, everybody who has invested in this has lost money,” Abelson said, adding that he doesn’t think that energy companies will end their development efforts.

“There are deep pockets and large multinational corporations involved in this research and they need to stand on their own in this,” he said.

“We shouldn’t be throwing good money after bad on oil shale research that won’t produce energy for the foreseeable future,” Polis said. “Dumping another $25 million of taxpayer money into oil shale research makes no sense when there isn’t commercially viable technology that will turn it into oil and many energy companies consider it such a low priority.” Continue reading

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