Salazar’s oil shale comments run counter to Lundberg energy bill

Ken Salazar at a Sept. 15, 2008 Barack Obama rally in Grand Junction, Colo. (Photo/Topher Simon, Flickr)

Ken Salazar at a Sept. 15, 2008 Barack Obama rally in Grand Junction, Colo. (Photo/Topher Simon, Flickr)

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in recent days has dampened the hopes of state lawmakers who are pushing to revive Colorado’s long-dormant oil shale industry.

In Lakewood today to visit the scandal-plagued offices of the Minerals Management Service (MMS) with a message of sweeping reform, Salazar in recent days has also clearly signaled he will try to slow the pace of oil-shale development on the Western Slope.

That flies in the face of efforts by Republican state lawmakers such as Sen. Kevin Lundberg to take advantage of last-minute Bush administration regulations on oil shale production and provide incentives to the oil and gas industry at the state level.

In an Associated Press (AP) interview Tuesday and again in a White House press briefing Wednesday, Salazar urged a slow approach to oil shale for environmental reasons and repeated that he will review Bush administration “midnight” regulations that put in place an oil shale management plan and set royalty rates for production on federal lands.

According to the AP, Salazar:

— Cautioned against pushing too fast on oil shale development in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah until more is known about the impact on water resources and climate change. Oil shale extraction requires a lot of water that could strain the resources of the Colorado River and huge amounts of electric power that could impact climate change, he said. “We’re going to have to be very thoughtful in the way it’s going to be developed.”

— Promised to review at least 10 “midnight regulatory actions” by the outgoing Bush administration, citing as examples regulations to limit the reach of the Endangered Species Act, oil shale permitting, and oil and gas permits issued near two national parks in Utah.

“I’m troubled by many of the ‘midnight’ actions by the administration. We’ll take a look at them one at a time and make the right decision going forward,” Salazar said.

Lundberg, in an interview with the Colorado Independent Tuesday called such federal policy “shortsighted. …

“We as a nation, I am hopeful that we will start figuring out that we need more energy, not less, and that it is in our best interest at every level that we encourage responsible production of all of our energy resources,” Lundberg said, referring to a bill he plans to reintroduce in the state Senate giving oil companies a 20 percent severance tax break until 2020.

“Here in Colorado, we have a great deal [of domestic energy] to draw on, not the least of which is oil shale. You could argue the opposite [of Salazar], that oil shale is the future of energy production in Colorado, and I believe we need to encourage it.”

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About the Author

David O. Williams

is an award-winning reporter who has covered energy, environmental and political issues for years. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Denver Post. He's founder of Real Vail
and Real Aspen.

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