Category: oil shale

Adding insult to injury, U.S. taxpayers subsidize climate-disrupting fossil fuel industry with $7 billion per year

New report breaks down public cost of supporting oil and coal

fracking rig in Colorado
Oil, gas and coal development on public lands is a bad deal for U.S. taxpayers. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

The as-yet barely checked use of fossil fuels is rapidly disrupting the global climate and to add insult to injury, taxpayers around the world are supporting the damage with huge subsidies, as well as tax breaks and loopholes.

A new report from watchdog groups last week helps detail exactly how that plays out in the U.S., where the subsidies may total as much as $7 billion per year. Additionally, the U.S. government is holding about $35 billion in public liabilities for drilling in public waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Continue reading “Adding insult to injury, U.S. taxpayers subsidize climate-disrupting fossil fuel industry with $7 billion per year”


Legal wrangling continues over rare oil patch plants

The rare Graham's penstemon grows primarily in the oil and gas patches of western Colorado and Utah. Photo courtesy Susan Meyer.
The rare Graham’s penstemon grows primarily in the oil and gas patches of western Colorado and Utah. Photo courtesy Susan Meyer.

Federal court says U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must take another look at listing decision

Staff Report

There’s a new legal twist in the long-running battle over rare wildflowers in northwestern Colorado and northeastern Utah. This week, a federal court, restored Endangered Species Act protection for two species of penstemon that grow only in oil shale formations in the region.

Conservation activists won protection for the plants in 2013, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that 91 percent of Graham’s beardtongue populations and 100 percent of White River beardtongues were threatened by the impacts of oil and gas development. But a year later, the agency reversed course, claiming that a voluntary conservation agreement would mitigate those threats. Continue reading “Legal wrangling continues over rare oil patch plants”

USGS study shows that injecting wastewater from fracking can trigger earthquakes up to 20 miles away

Oklahoma earthquake spike definitively linked with wastewater injection.

More monitoring and mitigation needed, scientists say

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Just a small number of wastewater injection wells associated with fossil fuel exploitation can lead to a dramatic increase in earthquakes, U.S. Geological Survey scientists concluded in a new study focusing on the spike in Oklahoma earthquakes since 2009. Wastewater injection can trigger earthquakes up to 20 miles away, the researchers found, far beyond the three-mile radius commonly used as a measure for diagnosing induced earthquakes.

The dramatic increase in earthquakes in central Oklahoma since 2009 is likely attributable to subsurface wastewater injection at just a handful of disposal wells. Oklahoma earthquakes constitute nearly half of all central and eastern U.S. seismicity from 2008 to 2013, many occurring in areas of high-rate water disposal, said Cornell University geophysics professor Katie Keranen, who led the study. Continue reading “USGS study shows that injecting wastewater from fracking can trigger earthquakes up to 20 miles away”

Energy: BLM to study California fracking impacts

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 “Energy: BLM to study California fracking impacts”

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

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

Paul Ryan makes blatantly false claims about energy development

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

Conservation groups challenge latest BLM oil shale plan

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 “Conservation groups challenge latest BLM oil shale plan”