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For decades, Royal Dutch Shell – Europe’s largest energy company – has been known in Colorado as the king of oil shale research, spending an estimated $200 million on an experimental and controversial extraction process that has yet to be proven commercially viable. But Shell and its American subsidiaries have increasingly been moving into natural gas drilling in the United States, including a well permit pulled in southern Colorado that has touched off a firestorm of debate over state versus local control of drilling operations and just how much public input should be allowed.
U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Tuesday called on his department’s inspector general to investigate so-called midnight oil shale leasing regulations issued in the waning days of the Bush administration. “We want to avoid the booms and busts of the past,” said Salazar, a former U.S. senator from Colorado, referring to a devastating oil shale bust on the Western Slope in the 1980s. “We want to ensure the potential development is done in a way that is environmentally appropriate."