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Groups: Going from 'Shale to the Pail' Could Leave a Mess on West Slope

March 24, 2008

Carbondale, CO - The rush to squeeze every last drop of oil from the "shale to the pail" has a number of groups sounding the alarm in Colorado and other mountain states. More than two dozen groups sent a letter to the federal Bureau of Land Management last week, opposing what they call the rush to develop oil shale along the Western Slope.

Peter Hart with the Wilderness Workshop in Carbondale says the BLM needs to slow down and do more research, "to understand how we're going to develop this and what the impacts of development might be."

The letter, signed by 26 local and national groups with recreational, environmental and business interests in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, stated their position clearly: "Based on the BLM’s analysis, commercial development of oil shale or tar sands would irreparably harm local lives and livelihoods. Development would also compromise a wide range of environmental values, including clean air, clean water, climate, recreation, water supply, and wildlife habitat."

Hart notes that oil shale extraction technologies are still in the design phase and remain unproven. Mandates in past energy bills have sped up the process of developing oil shale, but Hart believes those measures put the cart before the horse, and more testing needs to be done.

He adds that the public needs to know more about what shale development could mean for Western Slope communities and points to BLM documents that described some possible social impacts.

"We can expect to see a transformation from a traditional, agricultural economy to a more urban, more industrialized economy."

One of his big concerns is the amount of coal-powered electricity that will be needed to get the oil out of the shale.

"Does it make any sense to be using coal just to feed our appetite for oil?"

The BLM has extended its public comment period on a key oil shale proposal.

The letter is available online at

Eric Mack/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - CO