Reid may put oil shale moratorium back into continuing resolution

US Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said on Sept. 25 that he might try to reinsert a moratorium on federal oil shale leasing into a continuing resolution to keep the federal government operating through March 6, 2009.

US Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said on Sept. 25 that he might try to reinsert a moratorium on federal oil shale leasing into a continuing resolution to keep the federal government operating through March 6, 2009.

"There is a possibility that the Senate will be asked to vote on re-establishing the moratorium on oil shale extraction. Although Senate Democrats support measures to increase this nation's energy supply, oil shale extraction has not been proven to be economically viable. It will produce more greenhouse gases, and will significantly decrease the West's water supply," Reid said.

His announcement came a day after three Democrats on Colorado's congressional delegation vowed to reinstate the moratorium themselves when Congress returns to work. It also drew immediate fire from congressional Republicans.

"Only hours removed from a successful effort led by House Republicans to ensure a back-door congressional ban on energy development out west was struck from the CR, it appears Senate Democrats still haven't got the memo," House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said on Sept 25.

"The fact that Sen. Reid would try to sneak a sweeping, previously discarded, anti-energy provision into an unrelated, temporary spending bill is just the latest indication of how out-of-touch congressional Democrats are with millions of struggling energy consumers," he declared.

'Pretty aggressive effort'

"We think he's making a pretty aggressive effort. He's talked with various Republicans about inserting it into various bills from the CR to the economic stimulus package. We're opposed to any energy amendments on any of those items," said Thomas J. Corcoran, director of the Center for Unconventional Fuels.

He said that Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-NM), the Energy and Natural Resources Committee's ranking minority member, might offer an amendment to repeal Section 526 of the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act barring federal agencies' purchases of fuels made from unconventional sources if Reid persists. "There's widespread interest and concern about this. It would be a change in position from earlier in the week, when Democrats announced they would lift the moratorium," Corcoran told OGJ Washington Pulse.

US Sen. Ken Salazar and Reps. John Salazar and Mark Udall said on Sept. 24 that they support responsible development of domestic oil and gas resources (noting that Colorado has more than 34,000 natural gas wells) and comprehensive energy solutions which include expanded offshore development.

"However, it is clear that the Bush administration is clueless about the realities of oil shale development. By rushing ahead toward commercial leasing, they are putting at risk the very objective we hope to achieve, responsible oil shale development, by heightening the chance of another devastating bust," the three federal lawmakers said in a joint statement.

Colorado's other US senator, Republican Wayne Allard, took the opposite view. "It was a mistake to put the moratorium in last year and it would be a mistake to keep it in this year. This has finally been made clear to the Democratic leadership. A common sense approach to securing Colorado's energy future and our nation's energy independence dictates that we safely, cleanly and efficiently explore and develop our available resources, and we can now, finally, begin to do so," he said on Sept. 24.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com

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