Local northwest Colorado town and county officials and the governor’s office were “sworn to secrecy.” The federal government report was still in its draft stages and it was too early to inform the public or press about its contents. The matter was very urgent, the U.S. government agency said, therefore local entities had a short turn around time to respond to this secret plan. Very short–weeks. Some Coloradan officials felt the pressure from the federal government was unnecessarily intense and their goals unrealistic.
Was this a fire disaster prevention plan? Were the Feds trying to stave off an Avian flu outbreak? Were the terrorists going to blow up northwest Colorado? No on all counts. The Bureau of Land Management wanted selected Colorado government representatives to sign off on the BLM’s oil shale environmental and socio-economic impact study. The short deadline was set because the public comment period on the proposed study would start in July and the BLM wanted to incorporate some of the local government input in it before it was released.
Wyoming, Utah and Colorado, including Rifle, Parachute, Meeker, Craig in Garfield, Rio Blanco and Moffat counties, were among 14 cooperating agencies that were allowed to review BLM’s preliminary proposal. Because of its rich deposits, Western Colorado will experience the most extreme oil shale development.
BLM’s goal is to have the oil shale development plan in place by the end of 2008.
“One of the problems with the BLM’s study is, it’s missing the chapters on the socio-economic impact on local towns and counties,” noted one local official, who asked to remain anonymous. “How can we sign off on something we haven’t read that could affect our citizens the most?” he questioned.
The BLM report is suppose to address the impacts from the development of oil shale and forecast what energy and water resources will be needed.
Originally, state and local officials had only to May 29 to reply, but Gov. Bill Ritter and Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal protested and asked for a Sept. 11 extension. The BLM compromised and extended their deadline until June 12.
Initially the BLM was going to exclude the local governments from the public comment period, but dropped that requirement after officials loudly complained.
“I think the BLM hopes that since we are from a rural area, we will blindly sign off on the preliminary report,” stated the unnamed government official. “Then the BLM could tell the public that since we had approved the plan, so should they.”
The official predicted, “the BLM is going to be very disappointed.”
The BLM release date for the oil shale SEIS plan is set tentatively for July 13. There will be a 90-day public review period.
Coming Tuesday: Water and oil shale development
Photos of oil shale by Leslie Robinson. Bottom photo contains fossils.