State wants more time on oil shale
DENVER Wyoming and Colorado will get about a month three months short of what they requested to study a federal plan for wide-scale oil shale development in the region.Wyoming, Colorado and Utah have until June 12 to review the draft environmental impact statement on oil shale development on federal lands in southwest Wyoming, western Colorado and eastern Utah. The Interior Department agreed Tuesday to extend the original review deadline of May 29 by two weeks far short of the 120 days sought by Wyoming and Colorado.Were disappointed. We hoped to have the opportunity to do a comprehensive review of the 2,000 pages and really provide in-depth and meaningful comments, Mike King, deputy director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, said Wednesday.Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter and Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal sent letters to the Interior Department in April saying the states need more time to review the document, which will address environmental, social and economic impacts of oil-shale development.Temple Stevenson, a natural resources policy adviser to Freudenthal, said Wyoming would have preferred a longer extension.Two weeks will certainly help, although a month would have helped more, Stevenson said. Well take what we can get.Interior officials have noted that the federal government is already behind the schedule set by Congress for completing the final environmental analysis. The 2005 federal energy bill directed the Bureau of Land Management, part of the Interior Department, to complete it by February.While we have not met the deadline, the BLM is still required to complete the (programmatic environmental impact statement) as soon as possible, Assistant Interior Secretary Stephen Allred wrote in a letter Monday to Ritter.Federal officials have also said the states will have an additional 90 days to review the plan after the draft is released to the public, which is expected to see the draft in mid-July.Wyoming, Colorado and Utah are among 14 cooperating agencies, including a few cities and counties, that see the preliminary plan before the public does and have more opportunity to weigh in.Because the state of Colorado has a fiduciary and stewardship responsibility to its residents, it needs more time for meaningful input on the oil shale plan, Ritter wrote in an April 17 letter to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne.King said Colorado state technical experts are reviewing the preliminary plan, sent to the states this week. He said Colorado officials might have to submit placeholder comments at the end of the four weeks and prepare more in-depth feedback later.For the BLM to just glibly say that the state of Colorado can comment along with the rest of the public ignores the states special status, said Bob Randall, an attorney with Boulder-based Western Resource Advocates, an environmental law and policy.Randall said the schedule approved by Congress for the oil shale assessment was ambitious.It really was a huge task to be completed in a short time, he added.Shale reserves in Colorado, Utah and southwest Wyoming are believed to contain at least 1 trillion barrels of oil three times the proven reserves of Saudi Arabia, or enough to theoretically supply the United States for a century.But the oil, or kerogen, is locked in layers of hard rock, and the technology for affordably heating and extracting the liquid is still evolving. Local governments have urged federal officials to move cautiously because the impact on water and other resources isnt clear.Last year, the Interior Department approved 10-year leases for oil-shale research and development projects for Shell Frontier Oil & Gas Co., Chevron USA and EGL Resources Inc. on separate sites in northwest Colorado. Oil Shale Exploration Co. won approval last month of an experimental project in Utah.Area officials and residents also are wary because of the oil-shale bust of the early 1980s. Western Colorados economy was sent reeling when falling oil prices led Exxon to shut down its $5 billion Colony oil-shale project in Parachute and lay off 2,200 workers.