Bush administration lays groundwork for oil shale drilling on public lands

Bush’s 11th hour regulations just keep rolling in: Last week, Dubya expanded the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) oil and gas leasing program in Utah, which will allow drilling in public lands bordering pristine sites like Desolation Canyon. The week before, the Washington Post reported that the administration has a slew of new environmental laws in the works—and trust us, they ain’t good.

Tack another last-minute regulation onto the ever-growing list, because yesterday the administration finalized plans for commercial oil shale development on 1.9 million acres of public lands in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming. Needless to say, environmentalists are up in arms—especially given the shady nature in which the plan went down.

Opponents say that the public wasn’t given any time to protest the decision—a standard procedure for federal regulations issued by BLM. In addition, the administration gave energy companies a royalties discount bigger than a Macy’s One-Day Sale.

From the New York Times:

Interior Department officials said the 5 percent royalty rate during the first five years of production was needed to spur drilling while still giving taxpayers a fair return. But that rate is much lower than the 12.5 percent to 18.8 percent the government collects from companies harvesting conventional oil and gas on public lands.

Both environmentalists and politicians from the three states affected by oil shale development argue that not enough is known about how the process would affect the surrounding environment and water. Because oil shale development involves costly, resource-intensive extraction from sediment, it can be even more harmful to the environment than traditional oil drilling.

From the New York Times’ Green Inc. blog:

Oil shale is a controversial and environmentally damaging source of hydrocarbons since it requires vast amounts of energy and water to squeeze oil out of the sedimentary rocks. The process emits far more carbon dioxide, which is responsible for global warming, than traditional refining operations.

It seems like ol’ Bushie won’t be content unless he uses his remaining three months in office to turn the country into a barren wasteland. But in this particular environmental abomination, there is a small, silver lining: Because this decision only sets the groundwork for oil extraction, it will be up to the new administration to actually start leasing lands for development. We’re hoping our man Obama won’t let us down and will put the kibosh on this and other anti-environmental legislation once he takes office in January.


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