Interior Secretary Ken Salazar Wednesday continued to clean house on Colorado’s nascent oil shale industry, rolling back midnight regulations from the Bush administration that would have offered four times as many acres for research and development as the industry last leased in 2005.
The lease offering of 640-acre parcels on federal land in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming — where an estimated 800 billion barrels of oil are trapped in shale rock and sand – was announced by the Bush administration in its final week in office in mid-January.
The leases would have been locked in at a 5 percent royalty rate also imposed at the 11th hour by the Bureau of Land Management. That royalty rate is considered either outrageously stingy or industry-killing depending on whose special interest hat you’re wearing.
As a Colorado senator prior to his cabinet appointment, Salazar indicated those regulations needed to be revisited.
While environmentalists continue to praise Salazar’s efforts to rein in oil shale development efforts, saying the process of extraction consumes far too much water and is too damaging to the land, oil and gas industry advocates and many Republican lawmakers have been critical of the rollback of midnight rules.
State Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud) has introduced legislation to give oil companies willing to invest in the commercially unproven process severance tax breaks to do more research and development, as long as they are up and running by 2012.