Letter: BLM must consider oil shale’s effects on water

Oil shale development should take a backseat to water conservation, environmental groups, business owners, farmers, ranchers and others wrote the Bureau of Land Management on Wednesday.

The oil shale industry should be required to conduct the necessary research before commercial leasing takes place to prove that oil shale is economically viable and will not deplete water resources, the letter says.

“We have to be smart about oil shale, or we risk the future of Colorado’s farms and ranches, the ability of municipalities to meet water needs for Colorado families or having enough water in our rivers for recreational uses such as fishing and rafting,” the letter says.

The letter comes as the bureau accepts comments on an environmental impact statement it issued in spring.

The bureau has proposed to lease acreage for research and development of oil shale in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah in an “environmentally responsible way that protects scarce water supplies,” the bureau said.

“Because there are still many unanswered questions about the technology, water use and impacts of potential commercial-scale oil shale development, we are proposing a prudent and orderly approach that could facilitate significant improvements to technology needed for commercial-scale activity,” bureau Director Bob Abbey has said.

The bureau expects to make a decision on the leases by the end of the year, a spokesman said.


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