US House votes to delay oil shale leasing

The US House voted June 27 to delay for at least a year oil shale leasing and development required under the 2005 Energy Policy Act (EPACT).

Nick Snow
Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON, DC, June 29 -- The US House voted June 27 to delay for at least a year oil shale leasing and development required under the 2005 Energy Policy Act (EPACT). It adopted an amendment proposed by Rep. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) to the US Department of Interior's fiscal 2008 budget that would bar the Bureau of Land Management from issuing any final regulations for commercial-scale oil shale leasing and from offering any commercial-scale oil shale leases.

Udall said EPACT currently requires BLM to issue the regulations and to move to leasing "on a crash basis and under a tight deadline." He proposed a similar amendment 2 weeks earlier as the Energy and Natural Resources Committee marked up HR 2337, the Energy Reform and Revitalization Act.

"Oil shale has potential as an energy source, but Colorado's Western Slope has had experience with a rush to development that ended up hurting our region's economy. My legislation will ensure that oil shale is developed in a responsible way," Udall said following the vote.

He said a 2005 Rand Corp. report, which had highlighted benefits of developing oil shale, also noted that large-scale development would significantly increase the area's population and put pressure on local communities to provide services.

Udall said many on Colorado's Western Slope oppose the timetable outlined in EPACT. He said they would rather see one in which DOI takes enough time to do the evaluation and leasing properly. "My amendment will slow that process down so that we can be thoughtful about oil shale development," he said.

Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah) disagreed. "On the very day that [Venezuelan President] Hugo Chavez took greater control of world oil supply, the House took a major step backward in the development of our very own sources of oil. Cowed by the environmental lobby, the majority today voted to put the plug back into one of the most promising and viable new sources of oil we have in the entire nation," he said following the vote.

Cannon said the Green River oil shale formation in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming conservatively holds an estimated 2 trillion bbl of recoverable oil—enough to meet current US demand for 200 years or longer. "Development of diverse sources of energy is vital to our national security, and oil shale is an integral part of a comprehensive energy strategy," he said.

Contact Nick Snow at nsnow@cox.net.

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