Updated: Oil Shale Slowdown Showdown

BLM’s fast track on oil shale was derailed, but Roan Plateau development delay was dumped

Democratic Congressman Mark Udall’s Amendment 2 to the Interior Department budget that would delay the Bureau of Land Management’s oil shale development plan was voted on twice in Congress today. The first two minute vote on the amendment led by only four votes in Congress. Udall’s amendment passed 219 by 215 in a tally that bounced back and forth until the end.

Accusations that the ballot was illegally held open to change the final outcome were made by Rep. Westmoreland from Georgia. His point of order that time had expired on the vote to pass the amendment was noted. But wait, there’s more…Another vote was requested on the Udall Amendment because of the controversy. This time the amendment passed 216 to 210.

The amendment barred funds for implementing rules on leasing oil shale reserves on public land.

The BLM had planned on pushing through water, air quality, environmental and social impact studies by the end of next year. The federal agency refused to give governors from Colorado and Wyoming and local towns impacted by potential oil shale development a two month extension to react to an incomplete socio-economic study. Instead the agency allowed a two week extension in order to meet a mid-July deadline for public comment.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketPredictions are it will take another 10 years to develop a feasible commercial process to extract oil from the shale rock, so government officials questioned the need for the BLM to arbitrarily rush the approval process for the studies.

Colorado Republican Congressman Doug Lamborn spoke against Udall’s amendment and Utah Rep. Chris Cannon’s amendment to recluse Utah and Wyoming from Udall’s amendment failed. President Bush has already threatened to veto the budget bill.

Roan Plateau
Udall remarked from the floor that his amendment to delay funding for the leasing of the Roan Plateau for oil and gas development was withdrawn. A joint press release from Udall and John Salazar:

U.S. Reps. John Salazar (CO-3) and Mark Udall (CO-2) released the following statement today after a last-minute cost estimate was added late last night to the Roan Plateau amendment, preventing its passage on the floor today.  The amendment would have halted the U.S. Interior Department, which oversees the Bureau of Land Management, from using any funds to lease lands on the Roan Plateau not already open to drilling.

The amendment would have been attached to the 2008 Interior and the Environment Appropriations bill that passed the House floor today. 

“We are disappointed that the Bush Administration has stepped in at the last minute and apparently strong-armed the Congressional Budget Office into accepting very questionable numbers on the cost of our amendment.  Because of this curiously-timed and highly speculative cost estimate, we were not able to get a vote on delaying drilling on the Roan Plateau in the 2008 Interior Appropriations bill. 

In effect, the Bush Administration is using exaggerated estimates of uncertain oil and gas revenue as an excuse to force additional oil and gas drilling on the West, and while they have won today’s round, they will not prevail in the end.

“Serious questions remain about the federal plan to open up more of the Roan to oil and gas drilling.  It is clear to us that the public process must continue in order to protect the interests of affected communities and other users of these public lands. 

Our amendment would have allowed that process to continue in order to strike an appropriate balance between energy development, conservation and recreation.  Unfortunately, the Bush Administration and its allies have abandoned a public process they claim to embrace and have instead chosen to stifle discussion.

“Had we been able to get a vote on our amendment, we are confident that we would have prevailed.  We would have been successful in spite of the misinformation put out by proponents of drilling.  While some on the Western Slope have aligned themselves with the energy industry and have given voice to the distortions generated by the industry, we have chosen to side with the communities and the thousands of constituents who have voiced their concerns about the impact it would have on them.

This fight is not over – there are other legislative strategies we intend to pursue– and we also intend to send a strong message to the Bush Administration that the process they are pursuing on the Roan is seriously flawed and must be changed.”

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