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Oil Shale Back on the Table, West Slope Sportsmen Still Not Biting

September 23, 2008

Craig, CO - Oil shale is back on the table in the national energy policy debate, and some Colorado sportsmen and conservationists are urging the federal government not to bite off more than the Western Slope can chew.

Luke Schafer, who works with the Colorado Environmental Coalition and the Colorado Wildlife Federation in Craig, says a proposal that could open 600,000 acres to oil shale development--along with separate plans for thousands of gas wells--threatens to change the landscape forever.

"Northwest Colorado has already become an energy colony for the rest of the nation. Our natural heritage is being destroyed on a daily basis, and we need to find a different solution."

Proponents say tapping domestic oil shale in Colorado would help reduce dependence on foreign oil and help bring down energy prices. But Schafer and others point out that oil shale production also requires large amounts of electricity and water, which are often in short supply in the region.

Schafer says lawmakers should take a more measured approach to energy policy that depends less on chasing every last drop of fossil fuel, especially through destructive means like oil shale development. He wants to see more focus on renewable energy resources.

"Once the barn door's open, you're not going to get the horse back in. This is an opportunity for us to take a more long-term look at what we do out here."

The measure to lift a ban on oil shale development was added to a House-passed energy bill at the "eleventh hour" last week. Identical language was added Monday to the bill that Congress must pass to continue funding the federal government through the end of the year; it's expected to be up for a vote this week.

Eric Mack/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - CO