US government to 'take a fresh look' at commercial development of oil shale, tar sands

Source: Bureau of Land Management

The US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has begun the process to take a fresh look at commercial oil shale and tar sand plans issued under the previous Administration.

The BLM will publish in Thursday’s Federal Register a Notice of Intent to Prepare a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) governing allocation of oil shale and tar sands resources on BLM lands in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. 

In the current Notice of Intent, the BLM will consider whether it is still appropriate for the land identified in 2008 to remain open for oil shale and tar sands leasing and development, in light of the nascent character of the technology for development of these resources. 

“The BLM remains committed to a thoughtful, orderly, and responsible oil shale development program,” said BLM Director Bob Abbey. “Public involvement is a vital component in this process as we seek to develop critical information about oil shale development.”

In 2008, the BLM published a Final PEIS that, in addition to expanding the acreage potentially available for commercial tar-sands leasing, amended 8 resource management plans (RMPs) in Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming to make approximately 1.9 million acres of public lands potentially available for commercial oil shale development and 431,224 acres for tar sands leasing and development.

With commercial development of oil shale at least several years away, the new planning process will allow the BLM to take a fresh look at what public lands are best suited for oil shale and tar sands development. Final land-use decisions will be made in light of any new information about potential resource needs and impacts, and technological innovations.

The public is being invited to submit comments and concerns on potential resource issues that should be discussed in the NEPA analysis, including input on historic and cultural resources within the areas proposed for land use plan amendment. 

On February 15, 2011, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and BLM Director Bob Abbey announced a review of commercial rules for the development of oil shale resources on public lands. Secretary Salazar described the need to update oil shale plans and, if necessary update them based on the latest research and technology, the water demands of the West, and ensure they would provide a fair return to taxpayers.

The BLM manages more land - over 245 million acres - than any other Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The Bureau, with a budget of about $1 billion, also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM's multiple-use mission is to sustain the health and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. The Bureau accomplishes this by managing such activities as outdoor recreation, livestock grazing, mineral development, and energy production, and by conserving natural, historical, cultural, and other resources on public lands.

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