The "Boom" Goes Boink?
Development got off to a slow start as the winning companies moved into the planning and design process. Some of the delay arose from the fact that, before they could get shovels in the ground, the companies had to gather baseline environmental data to comply with the slew of new environmental laws recently adopted by Congress - the Wilderness Act in 1964, the Clean Air Act in 1970, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in 1970, the Clean Water Act in 1972, the Endangered Species Act in 1973, and the Safe Drinking Water Act in 1974. Furthermore, any operations beginning on BLM lands after 1976 would also have to meet the requirements of that year's Federal Lands Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), which compels the agency to develop land use plans that accommodate multiple uses and protect the scenic qualities of the landscape.
Whether these new regulations, economic fluctuations, the old technological difficulties, or (most likely) a combination of factors were responsible, by 1976 oil shale development seemed more boink than boom. The embargo-induced energy crisis had abated, inflation was up, lessees had started requesting a suspension of their leases until the situation changed for the better, two companies had given up their leases entirely (although they maintained other private holdings in the area), and the industry's outlook was generally sour. Even the official industry magazine, Shale Country, folded up. 16