County commissioners from Garfield County unanimously approved a resolution Monday to denounce the federal government’s plan to reduce the amount of acreage potentially available for oil shale development in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent reports.
The resolution takes a sharp tone against the federal government’s approach to oil shale. The county commissioners accuse the Bureau of Land Management of being “encumbered by a host of anti-oil shale pro-wilderness groups steering the BLM’s every move.”
After the break: Details about the resolution and reaction among Garfield County residents.
“Are there some harsh words in here? Yes, there are,” District 3 Commissioner Mike Samson (R) told the citizens who came to the meeting to discuss the resolution. “We’re tired of things being done against us in western Colorado, so there is some resentment on our part.”
Many who attended the meeting voiced concerns over the tone of the resolution and spoke in support of the new BLM alternative. Nearly two dozen citizens attended the meeting and most opposed the county’s resolution, although a few did speak in support of the county’s stance.
The resolution emerged from a meeting in late March in Vernal, Utah, where county commissioners from the tri-state region met to discuss oil shale development. Of particular concern was the Bureau of Land Management’s 2012 Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement. The preferred alternative in the Draft PEIS significantly reduces the amount of land available for oil shale development and restricts its use to research and development until the industry can be proven technologically and economically.
The commissioner’s resolution supports the BLM’s 2008 PEIS, which was issued during the waning days of the Bush Administration but was revisited following a legal settlement with a coalition of environmental groups. That plan allocated nearly 2 million acres of land for commercial oil shale and tar sand development. The preferred alternative in the Draft PEIS would cut the amount of acreage available for oil shale development by nearly 90 percent, from 2 million acres to 462,000.
Aleks Briedis, a candidate for the District 3 Commissioner seat who will run against Samson this November, believes that the resolution is misguided and does not accurately represent Garfield County residents’ opinions on oil shale.
“In reading the resolution, it sounds more like a political statement written by the oil shale industry, rather than something intended to help Garfield County residents,” Briedis (D) told the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. “Garfield County’s commissioners should be representing Garfield County residents and not those of other states or the industry.”
The commissioners toned down some of the assertions made in the resolution’s draft. The draft had characterized oil shale as “proven beyond a doubt to be a technologically and economically feasible” energy and that development “requires little to no consumption of water, contrary to the myths which falsely claim that oil shale extraction requires large consumption of water resources.”
In the final version of the resolution, the words “beyond a doubt” were removed and the wording was changed to “some processes require little to no consumption of water.” Environmental advocacy groups, like Western Resource Advocates in their report “Oil Shale: 2050,” have heavily criticized the industry for the impact it would have on western water resources for what they claim is an unproven technology.
Chairman of the Board of County Commissioners John Martin (R) stated that the resolution was “the consensus of the affected counties in the three states” following the meeting in Vernal, Utah. Garfield County is the first to pass such a resolution, although similar resolutions may be expected from the other counties in the near future. Martin noted that the constantly changing policies on oil shale are hurting the industry.
“Follow the policy that’s in place; that’s all we’re asking,” Martin said.
The 2012 Draft PEIS is still open for public comment until May 4, 2012. For information on the draft and how to get involved, visit the BLM’s Oil Shale and Tar Sands PEIS website.