Judge gives feds more time to settle lawsuits over 11th-hour oil shale rules

A Colorado U.S. District Court judge has granted an extension until Nov. 16 for federal government attorneys trying to reach a settlement with environmental groups over midnight rule making by the Bush administration for oil shale leasing on the Western Slope.

A coalition of environmental groups including the Center for Biological Diversity, Colorado Environmental Coalition and the Sierra Club sued in January to block 11th-hour Bush administration rule making by the Bureau of Land Management that set parameters for oil shale leasing and development on millions of acres of public lands in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.

According to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, this is the fifth extension granted the government in this case, mostly due to the transition between the Bush and Obama administration in the Interior Department. But progress is reportedly being made on a settlement.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who blocked oil shale development as a Colorado senator, has suspended any new research and development leases for the controversial extractive process, which is still unproven on a commercial scale.

Shell Oil holds three research leases in Colorado but is now embroiled in a controversy involving former Bush Interior Secretary Gale Norton, who’s being investigated by the Justice Department for allegedly providing favorable treatment to Shell in exchange for a job.

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