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U.S. Ban Being Lifted on Oil Shale in Wyoming, Utah




By Daniel Whitten

Jan. 7 (Bloomberg) — A 79-year-old executive order barring oil-shale development in Wyoming and Utah is being lifted by the U.S. Interior Department.

In Federal Register notices scheduled for publication tomorrow, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management said it will open 6 million acres in Wyoming and 1.7 million in Utah to leasing, pending analysis to determine if the land warrants special protections. The plan would take effect next month.

Companies such as Exxon-Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Chevron Corp. are studying production through a process that involves heating rock to extract oil. Western states may hold as much as 800 billion barrels of oil, potentially enough to fuel the U.S. for a century. Environmental groups have opposed such oil-shale production, saying it destroys pristine lands and requires great quantities of energy and water.

“This is really unorthodox in the sense that they are withdrawing 7 million acres of land without any public comment process,” said Bobby McEnaney, a public-lands analyst at the National Resources Defense Council, an environmental organization. “This is begging the new administration to take a second look at this.”

Democratic Senator Ken Salazar of Colorado, President-elect Barack Obama’schoice for Interior Secretary, has spoken out against the Bush administration’s approach to oil-shale leasing, calling it hasty. Obama would have the power to reverse Interior’s action, McEnaney said.

In 2001, Interior withdrew land in Colorado from the 1930 executive order’s prohibition on leasing. The Federal Register notices clear the way for the Interior Department to put in place regulations it issued in November setting leasing guidelines in the Colorado, Wyoming and Utah, said Matt Spangler, a Bureau of Land Management spokesman.

Congress lifted a ban last year on drafting the regulations.

To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel Whitten in Washington at[email protected]

Last Updated: January 7, 2009 18:39 EST


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