Reactions mixed as BLM issues EIS for oil shale

Nick Snow
Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Sept. 8 -- The US Bureau of Land Management issued a final programmatic environmental impact statement Sept. 4 to guide the use of public land containing oil shale and tar sands in three western states. Reactions ranged from applause to expressions of concern.

The document, which BLM developed under Section 369[d] of the 2005 Energy Policy Act, amends 12 land-use plans in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming to set aside 1.9 million acres of public land for potential commercial oil shale development, the US Department of the Interior agency indicated.

One of the next steps would be to complete rules to govern procedures for issuing leases, but Congress placed a moratorium in the fiscal 2008 DOI appropriation directing BLM not to finalize such a regulation, it continued.

US President George W. Bush has urged Congress to lift the moratorium so the agency can prepare final regulations for a program that would improve the nation's energy security, BLM Director James L. Caswell said. "The goal is to promote economically viable and environmentally sound production of oil shale on western lands where we estimate deposits hold the equivalent of 800 billion bbl of oil, enough to meet [current] US demand for imported oil at current levels for 110 years," he declared.

Most US oil shale deposits are in the Green River Formation of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming, according to BLM. The programmatic EIS identifies the most geologically promising areas on federal land in the three states, which would be open to applications for commercial leasing, it said.

BLM indicated that it would wait at least 60 days after publication of the final programmatic EIS in the Sept. 5 Federal Register before signing and issuing a record of decision approving the land-use plan amendments.

Cheers, criticism
Utah's two Republican US senators each greeted BLM's step with cheers as Colorado's Democratic governor and a major national environmental organization condemned it. A member of the state's congressional delegation said the programmatic EIS provides important information about potential resources and developmental impacts, which also shows why any further steps toward leasing should be gradual.

"A lot of folks have been armchair quarterbacking on the environmental aspects of oil shale development in this country. Now, we have the official word from the actual experts on how the environment can be protected during oil shale development," said Orrin G. Hatch, Utah's senior US senator.

Robert B. Bennett, the state's junior senator, noted that the programmatic EIS's preferred alternative would exclude 305,000 acres of BLM-managed federal land in the potential development area. Leasing would not be allowed in wilderness areas, wilderness study areas, areas of critical environmental concern closed to mineral leasing, and similarly designated areas, he said.

"The only obstacle standing in the way of producing more American oil through this abundant resource is Congress. As a senator from an oil shale state, I will continue to fight this legislative battle to repeal the moratorium on oil shale," Bennett said.

Colorado's governor took a different view. "With the Department of [the] Interior's action today, the federal government has once again failed to act as a responsible partner for Colorado. The Bush administration is engaging in last minute maneuvering in its waning days rather than developing a comprehensive, meaningful, and responsible long-term energy policy for America's future," said Bill Ritter Jr.

Short-sighted, premature
"Finalizing an environmental impact statement without any clear understanding of the environmental, community, economic and energy impacts of commercial-scale oil shale development is irresponsible, short-sighted, and premature. This does nothing to address [gasoline] prices at the pump today and has the potential to do much more harm than good," he continued.

Chase Huntley, energy policy advisor for the Wilderness Society, agreed. "The administration and its boosters in Congress are pushing the promise of oil shale in the hope of scoring political points by leading Americans to believe it will lower today's high energy prices. It will not. Putting politics ahead of responsible governance could cause more harm that good," he said.

"In fact, this reckless hurtle toward oil shale development puts thousands of residents of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming at risk of an economic catastrophe not seen since the Black Sunday collapse of the Colony oil shale project in 1982. This move also promises significant and potentially devastating environmental consequences for nearly 2 million acres of western public lands," Huntley warned.

US Rep. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), running to succeed the state's senior US senator Wayne Allard, who is retiring, said he welcomes BLM's publication of the programmatic EIS. "I think it shows why we should proceed carefully, with priority on the research and development program, before rushing to full-scale commercial leasing and development with all its effects on our lands, air, and above all, the scarce water supplies so important to the Western Slope," he said.

Udall's opponent is Robert W. Schaffer, who served three terms as a US House member from Colorado's fourth district during 1997-2003. He supports responsible oil shale resource development, according to information on his campaign website.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

Related Articles

BP Energy Outlook projects energy demand to jump 37% by 2035

02/17/2015 Global demand for energy is expected to rise by 37% from 2013 to 2035, or by an average of 1.4%/year, due in large part to ongoing economic expansi...

MARKET WATCH: Brent crude oil reaches above $62/bbl

02/17/2015 The April ICE contract for Brent crude oil prices rose modestly in London to settle above $62/bbl on Feb. 16 while the New York Mercantile Exchange...

MARKET WATCH: NYMEX crude oil prices near $53/bbl

02/16/2015 US light, sweet crude oil prices closed more than $1/bbl higher on the New York market Feb. 13, and Brent crude oil prices settled more than $2/bbl...

Deloitte studies oil supply growth for 2015-16

02/16/2015 A Deloitte MarketPoint analysis suggested large-field projects, each producing more than 25,000 b/d, could bring on 1.835 million b/d in oil supply...

MARKET WATCH: NYMEX crude oil price jumps more than $2/bbl

02/13/2015 Crude oil prices on the New York market jumped by more than $2/bbl Feb. 12 to settle above $51/bbl, which analysts attributed to more oil and gas c...

Apache’s 2015 capital budget less than half of last year’s $8.5 billion

02/12/2015 Apache Corp., Houston, plans a capital budget of $3.6-4 billion in 2015, with $2.1-2.3 billion directed toward onshore North America and $1.5-1.7 b...

Total reduces budget by 10% to $23-24 billion

02/12/2015 Total SA plans to lower its organic investments to $23-24 billion in 2015 from $26.4 billion in 2014 by reducing spending in brownfield development...

MARKET WATCH: NYMEX crude prices drop back below $50/bbl

02/12/2015 The New York Mercantile Exchange March crude oil contract dropped $1.18 on Feb. 11, closing at $48.84/bbl. The April contract dropped $1.15 to $50....

US House vote sends Keystone XL approval bill to Obama’s desk

02/12/2015 The US House of Representatives voted by 270 to 152 to pass S. 1, which would deem the proposed Keystone XL crude oil pipeline approved more than 6...
White Papers

Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry with EPPM

With budgets in the billions, timelines spanning years, and life cycles extending over decades, oil an...
Sponsored by

Asset Decommissioning in Oil & Gas: Transforming Business

Asset intensive organizations like Oil and Gas have their own industry specific challenges when it com...
Sponsored by

Squeezing the Green: How to Cut Petroleum Downstream Costs and Optimize Processing Efficiencies with Enterprise Project Portfolio Management Solutions

As the downstream petroleum industry grapples with change in every sector and at every level, includin...
Sponsored by

7 Steps to Improve Oil & Gas Asset Decommissioning

Global competition and volatile markets are creating a challenging business climate for project based ...
Sponsored by

The impact of aging infrastructure in process manufacturing industries

Process manufacturing companies in the oil and gas, utilities, chemicals and natural resource industri...
Sponsored by

What is System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis?

This paper will explain some of the fundamentals of System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis and demonstrate...

Accurate Thermo-Fluid Simulation in Real Time Environments

The crux of any task undertaken in System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis is striking a balance between ti...

6 ways for Energy, Chemical and Oil and Gas Companies to Avert the Impending Workforce Crisis

As many as half of the skilled workers in energy, chemical and oil & gas industries are quickly he...
Sponsored by
Available Webcasts

On Demand

Global LNG: Adjusting to New Realities

Fri, Mar 20, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s March 20, 2015, webcast will look at how global LNG trade will be affected over the next 12-24 months by falling crude oil prices and changing patterns and pressures of demand. Will US LNG production play a role in balancing markets? Or will it add to a growing global oversupply of LNG for markets remote from easier natural gas supply? Will new buyers with marginal credit, smaller requirements, or great need for flexibility begin to look attractive to suppliers? How will high-cost, mega-projects in Australia respond to new construction cost trends?

register:WEBCAST


US Midstream at a Crossroads

Fri, Mar 6, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s Mar. 6, 2015, webcast will focus on US midstream companies at an inflection point in their development in response to more than 6 years shale oil and gas production growth. Major infrastructure—gas plants, gathering systems, and takeaway pipelines—have been built. Major fractionation hubs have expanded. Given the radically changed pricing environment since mid-2014, where do processors go from here? What is the fate of large projects caught in mid-development? How to producers and processors cooperate to ensure a sustainable and profitable future? This event will serve to set the discussion table for the annual GPA Convention in San Antonio, Apr. 13-16, 2015.

This event is sponsored by Leidos Engineering.

register:WEBCAST


The Future of US Refining

Fri, Feb 6, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s Feb. 6, 2015, webcast will focus on the future of US refining as various forces this year conspire to pull the industry in different directions. Lower oil prices generally reduce feedstock costs, but they have also lowered refiners’ returns, as 2015 begins with refined products priced at lows not seen in years. If lower per-barrel crude prices dampen production of lighter crudes among shale plays, what will happen to refiners’ plans to export more barrels of lighter crudes? And as always, refiners will be affected by government regulations, particularly those that suppress demand, increase costs, or limit access to markets or supply.

register:WEBCAST


Oil & Gas Journal’s Forecast & Review/Worldwide Pipeline Construction 2015

Fri, Jan 30, 2015

The  Forecast & Review/Worldwide Pipeline Construction 2015 Webcast will address Oil & Gas Journal’s outlooks for the oil market and pipeline construction in a year of turbulence. Based on two annual special reports, the webcast will be presented by OGJ Editor Bob Tippee and OGJ Managing Editor-Technology Chris Smith.
The Forecast & Review portion of the webcast will identify forces underlying the collapse in crude oil prices and assess prospects for changes essential to recovery—all in the context of geopolitical pressures buffeting the market.

register:WEBCAST


Emerson Micro Motion Videos

Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!

 

Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected