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Speak Out on Oil Shale Development

Excavation work on an oil shale research and development site in northwestern Colorado. Image credit: Judith Kohler.Excavation work on an oil shale research and development site in northwestern Colorado. Image credit: Judith Kohler.Background:
Oil shale development is an intensive, industrial mining process that requires large amounts of water, disturbs vast acres of land, and must be accompanied by significant construction of roads, transmission lines, effluent ponds and tailings piles.  To develop successfully, large scale oil shale extraction may create water shortages for other water users in semi-arid regions.  The industry’s need for, and use of, water could directly reduce stream flows and degrade water quality. Contamination of surface and groundwater, higher water temperatures and loss of physical habitat due to lower stream flows could occur. Potential reductions in stream flows and water quality also will almost certainly negatively affect fish and the elk, deer, greater sage-grouse and other wildlife that make this area this area so important to hunters and anglers and other wildlife enthusiasts. 

The Piceance Basin in northwest Colorado, where some of the richest oil shale deposits are found, boasts North America’s largest migratory mule deer herd. Credit: Steve Torbit.

In 2008, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued a final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) that would have amended 12 land use plans in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming to designate more than 2 million acres of public lands as available for commercial leasing for oil shale or tar sands development.  To settle a lawsuit, and in light of new information, the BLM decided to reassess the 2008 document, now covered under 10 land use plans in the three states. 

Specifically, the BLM is considering amending the applicable Resource Management Plans (RMPs) to specify whether to withdraw any areas in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming currently open for future oil shale an tar sands leasing and development.  The BLM issued a new draft PEIS for oil shale in January 2012, and has recommended Alternative 2(b) out of the proposed courses of action. Alternative 2 is the suggested plan for tar sands.  With respect to oil shale, the BLM wants to focus on research and development projects to obtain more information about the technology needed to develop this resource, as well as the environmental implications, before committing to broad-scale commercial development.

Take Action: Speak Up on Oil Shale

Learn more about oil shale development and what sportsmen have to say about development. Watch the Videos:

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Oil shale vs. shale oil

Oil shale and shale oil are not the same things. Oil shale – the subject of the Bureau of Land Management’s Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement – is really kerogen, fossilized material that didn’t get enough heat and pressure in nature to turn into oil. It has to be heated to extreme temperatures, extracted and processed into a usable fuel. By contrast, shale oil is real oil that’s trapped in rock formations. Technological advances have made it easier to extract.

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