Salazar blocks Bush nominee over drilling |

Salazar blocks Bush nominee over drilling

Jennifer Talhelm
Associated Press Writer
Vail, CO Colorado
Peter M. Fredin/AP PhotoA natural gas drilling site, showing newly-built roads last summer, atop the Roan Plateau near Rifle.

WASHINGTON ” Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., says he will block the confirmation of President Bush’s nominee to head the Bureau of Land Management until the administration gives Colorado more time to review a plan that allows gas drilling on the Roan Plateau.

“They will not get a BLM director until we come to some resolution on this issue,” a frustrated Salazar told reporters in a conference call Thursday. “I will not allow the Western Slope to become a sacrificial zone for the rest of the nation.”

Bush last month nominated James Caswell, a veteran public land official from Idaho, to head the Interior Department agency, which manages one-eighth of the land in the nation.

Caswell’s nomination must be confirmed by the Senate, and it can be held up by one senator with objections.

Salazar’s move is the latest attempt by Colorado Democrats to hinder a plan approved earlier this month that authorized up to 1,570 new natural gas wells on the Roan. The western Colorado landmark is rich in gas and oil shale reserves and beloved for its pockets of pristine backcountry and abundant wildlife.

Meanwhile, other legislative attempts to delay two western Colorado energy initiatives failed in one case and succeeded in another Wednesday.

U.S. Reps. John Salazar and Mark Udall, D-Colo., were unable to get a vote on an amendment to delay natural gas leasing on the Roan Plateau after a last-minute, $10 million price tag was attached to the measure. Salazar and Udall blamed the Bush administration for the maneuver.

“In effect, the Bush administration is using exaggerated estimates of uncertain oil and gas revenue as an excuse to force additional oil and gas drilling on the West, and while they have won today’s round, they will not prevail in the end,” Salazar and Udall said.

Marc Smith, executive director of the Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States, said Udall’s go-slow approach may sound reasonable, “except when you look at it in the light of all the other projects that Congressman Udall has said he thinks ought to go slow.”

“He pretty much thinks everything ought to go slow,” Smith said. “It’s code-speak for ‘we hope a different administration will feel differently about redeveloping our domestic energy resources.'”

Udall won House approval of an amendment barring the Bureau of Land Management from issuing final regulations for commercial-scale leasing of oil shale and offering commercial oil shale leases during the 2008 fiscal year.

Glenwood Post-Independent Reporter Dennis Webb contributed to this report.

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