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HOUSE ENERGY BILL UNNECESSARILY PUTS UTAH’S WILD LANDS AT RISK
September 17, 2008 (WASHINGTON, D.C.): Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a broad reaching energy bill, H.R. 6899, which while advancing many important and positive energy policies, will be disastrous for Utah’s public lands.
H.R. 6899 repeals the FY08 moratorium on the Bureau of Land Management completing final rules for commercial oil shale and tar sand leasing on pubic lands. Instead, this provision will allow state governments in Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming to ‘opt-in’ and sanction commercial lease sales on public lands in that particular state, placing at risk the land, air, and water owned by all Americans.
Under the 2005 Energy Policy Act, the Interior Department established a program to develop a commercial leasing program for the West’s fledgling oil shale industry. The BLM now administers several Research, Development and Demonstration (RD&D) leases in Colorado and Utah, in addition to millions of acres of private and state lands held for oil shale. As of yet, none of the companies that hold these resources have proven that oil shale can be extracted or processed in an environmentally or economically viable manner, while just a few short months ago the EPA highlighted it’s concern over the potential for oil shale development to have significant, adverse impacts to air quality and water quantity.
“It is unnecessary and illogical for the BLM, now with the support of some in Congress, to promote commercial projects at this time, said Stephen Bloch, Conservation Director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “This is putting the cart before the horse in order to appease a few special interests, though this rush to lease oil shale and tar sands will do nothing to affect energy prices for the foreseeable future.”
Over 80,000 acres of public lands in Utah targeted for oil shale leasing are recognized by BLM as being wilderness quality lands.
“Despite the Bush Administration’s push to finalize rules for an unproven and dangerous energy source, we commend those in Congress who continue to stand firmly in opposition to the drill first, look later mentality and support the continuation of the prohibition in this year’s appropriations process,” noted SUWA’s Washington Representative, Richard Peterson-Cremer.