In a year when we’ve seen countless attacks on wilderness and America’s public lands, it came as a relief when the Department of Interior proposed to protect precious landscapes and Western watersheds from the ravages of a Big Oil Boondoggle in its just-released draft Oil Shale and Tar Sands Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement.
In that document, Interior supports a plan that will allow some lands to be leased for research and development (and if shown to be successful and environmentally safe, then commercial development), while protecting special places. For this action, the Obama administration deserves praise for tackling the irrational oil shale giveaway plan left in place by the previous administration.
But now, friends of Big Oil are pushing a bill that would ignore the realities of the oil shale “industry” and roll back regulations to Bush-Era mayhem, opening iconic landscapes in Utah, Wyoming and Colorado to an industry that even some of its most ardent backers agree is not ready for primetime. Rep. Doug Lamborn’s (CO) “PIONEERS” bill (HR 3408) would open millions of acres of federal land to leasing for what amounts to a mad scientist’s experiment with what is likely the dirtiest and least efficient fuel on the planet.
Even sillier, House Republicans are using the excuse that this handout to the oil industry can somehow fund the transportation bill. This is a terrible idea. Importantly, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has concluded that the bill wouldn’t generate any significant revenue due to the oil shale industry’s lack of commercial viability.
The Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement issued by the DOI isn’t perfect, but it takes the necessary cautious and skeptical approach we need for a technology that has failed time and again. Large scale commercial oil shale production would be disastrous to our already-strapped Western water supply, and we need to take a serious look at those consequences—especially before handing over the keys to some of America’s most iconic landscapes.
Snake oil is the only oil that shale has ever produced, and Lamborn and Boehner are coiled and ready to serve up more of it this week.
P.S. Today twelve local and national groups sent a letter to members of the House of Representatives urging Congress to approve Representative Jared Polis’ (D-CO) amendment #130 to H.R. 3408 to remove harmful and speculative oil shale provisions that endanger Western public lands and water supplies and do nothing to fund transportation projects or create jobs. Read the letter by clicking here.