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Oil Shale Plan Renews Energy Debate

Photo by Kirk Siegler
Suzanne O'Neill of the Colorado Wildlife Federation testifies at a BLM hearing Wednesday in Golden.

The Bureau of Land Management is taking a new look at oil shale development in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, as the Obama Administration considers shelving a controversial plan stemming from the Bush Administration that opened up 1.9 million acres of land in the three states for potential leasing.

A BLM meeting at the Denver West Marriot hotel Wednesday drew about 50 people. Many who testified were from environmental groups, including John Gale, co-chair of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers.

He said unlocking the oil-like substance kerogen from shale deep in the earth would take a lot of water – as much as the entire Denver metro area uses in a year.

"I grew up hunting and fishing out West and I also grew up farming and ranching and I know that’s a hell of a lot of water," Gale said.

But oil giant Shell, long-thought as the lead player in Colorado’s burgeoning shale industry, has said claims like those are overstated.  The company’s Venture Integration Manager, Tracy Boyd was the only one at the hearing to speak in favor of development.

"Our country needs energy in every form," Boyd said. "There is clearly a path forward where our energy needs can be supplemented with oil shale while also managing and mitigating the impacts of development."

Boyd urged the BLM to stick to the Bush-era plan.  The agency holds its next meeting in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  Land managers expect to issue a new environmental plan mapping out potential oil shale leasing and development in the three states by year’s end.

Kirk Siegler reports for NPR, based out of NPR West in California.
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