U.S. Moves to Protect Western Lands from Oil Shale Exploration

NRDC: “A Creative, Thoughtful and Responsible Approach”

WASHINGTON (November 9, 2012) — The Interior Department today moved to protect millions of acres of sensitive Western lands from oil shale and tar sands exploration, the Natural Resources Defense Council said.

“By significantly reducing the acreage of wilderness potentially available for leasing, Secretary Salazar is laying out a creative, thoughtful and more responsible approach in managing some of our most precious resources,” said Bobby McEnaney, senior lands analyst at NRDC.

The department's decision reverses plans issued in the waning days of the Bush administration that opened more than two million acres in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming to destructive exploration of oil shale and tar sands—with virtually no environmental safeguards.

Salazar's decision effectively screens off an additional 1.6 million acres of wilderness-quality lands, as well as lands with critical wildlife habitat, from such exploitation, thus significantly reducing the acreage available for commercial leasing.

Oil shale, which should not be confused with natural gas derived from shale formations, is a solid-state organic-rich, sedimentary rock, found largely in the Western United States. Its exploration requires massive amounts of electricity, often from coal-fired power plants that spew a smorgasbord of pollutants, including carbon dioxide, that fuels climate change. Oil shale production can generate more than twice the amount of carbon pollution than conventional gasoline.

"Seeking more and ever dirtier fuels is not the way to a clean energy future that Americans want and deserve. Rather, we need to accelerate investments in clean, renewable sources energy that are good for our economy and good for our heath and the health of our planet," McEnaney said.

Links to Bobby McEnaney’s blog and fact sheet:  

Blog: The Folly of Oil Shale - Reports Highlight the Tremendous Risks with this Dirtiest of Fuels

Fact sheet:  http://www.nrdc.org/energy/numbers.pdf