BLM publishes draft statement for oil shale development

Nick Snow
Washington Editor
WASHINGTON, DC, Dec. 26 -- The US Bureau of Land Management published a draft statement on Dec. 21 to guide future management of approximately 1.9 million acres in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming for potential commercial oil shale development.

The draft complies with Section 369(d) of the 2005 Energy Policy Act, which declares oil shale and other unconventional fuels to be strategically important domestic energy source which should be developed to reduce US reliance on imported oil, the Department of the Interior agency said.

"The potential of America's oil shale resources to meet future US demand for fuel is significant. Oil shale deposits on public lands hold the equivalent of 1.23 trillion bbl of oil. The lands we are proposing to make available are estimated to hold, at a minimum, the equivalent of 61 billion bbl," BLM Director Jim Caswell said on Dec. 20.

Rep. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and other politicians expressed concern following EPACT's passage that the law did not adequately consider possible economic, social and environmental impacts of oil shale resource development on nearby communities.

Caswell said that BLM is taking a thoughtful, deliberate approach to completing the program's EIS because there is no federal program for leasing these resources. BLM cooperated with 14 federal, state and local government agencies as it developed the draft over nearly 2 years, he said.

The draft programmatic EIS would not authorize any commercial development projects, provide for any leases to be issued, or commit BLM to any particular course of action, Caswell emphasized.

He said that its alternatives would exclude between 305,000 and 1.5 million acres from leasing. No leasing would be allowed in wilderness areas, wilderness study areas, other units of BLM's National Landscape Conservation System or critical environmental concern areas that are closed to mineral development.

The draft proposes that oil shale resources on identified lands would be leased as a solid mineral and additional site-specific analysis under the National Environmental Impact Act would be completed on each application before any lease could be issued, according to BLM.

BLM will accept comments on the proposal for 60 days following federal publication. The complete draft is available online and from BLM state and field offices in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming.
Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com

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