BOULDER, Colo. – A sportsmen’s coalition supports the Bureau of Land Management’s proposal for oil shale development on public lands that calls for more research into the unproven technology before commercial leases are approved in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah.
Companies should demonstrate that technology exists to tap the shale to produce oil and that fish and wildlife will be conserved and air and water quality protected, Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development said in comments submitted Friday to the BLM.
The BLM will consider public comments in finalizing its Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement on oil shale.
The sportsmen’s coalition backs the BLM’s preferred alternative, which would protect many key wildlife areas, including habitat for greater sage-grouse, while making public land available for research and pilot projects. The National Wildlife Federation, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and Trout Unlimited lead the coalition.
"This proposal gives companies an opportunity to prove they have the technology to produce oil from oil shale in a way that doesn’t jeopardize air and water quality, fish and wildlife. We think the half million acres that could be available under the plan is a more than enough to provide a pretty good sized research lab," said Kate Zimmerman, the National Wildlife Federation’s senior policy adviser on public lands.
The proposal revises a 2008 plan to open about 2 million acres of public lands in the three Rocky Mountain states to oil shale and tar sands development. The BLM took another look at the plan after challenges from several conservation groups.
“We welcome the BLM’s prudent approach to potential oil shale development,’’ said Brad Powell, energy director for Trout Unlimited’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project. “The region’s fish and wildlife populations are dependent on the availability of clean, cold water. Our water supplies in the West are too valuable to put at risk until the technology is better developed.”
"As pressure builds to find more sustainable sources of domestic energy, we must remember that the West’s public lands are vital components of our outdoor heritage and national identity," said Ed Arnett, director of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s Center for Responsible Energy Development.
While the BLM’s latest proposal is a more rational, measured approach to oil shale development, additional public lands shouldn’t be devoted to this use until the existing research leases produce tangible results and the potential impacts have been analyzed, SFRED said in its comments.