Utah Congressional Delegation Pushes the Interior Department on Restrictive American Energy Policy

In Letter to the Interior Secretary, Delegation Calls for Recent BLM Ruling to be Scrapped

February 8, 2012

WASHINGTON – Utah’s Congressional delegation today wrote to Secretary Ken Salazar of the U.S. Department of the Interior to urge he overturn the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for Oil Shale and Tar Sands that was recently announced.  The PEIS reduced the federal lands available to oil shale development from 2 million acres to only 461,965 acres. Closing off these lands is a significant missed opportunity to create jobs and lower energy costs for Utahns.

In the letter to Secretary Salazar, the delegation notes that the BLM ruling runs contrary to President Obama’s message in his recent State of the Union address where he called for an “all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy.”  

HATCH: “The BLM’s decision is yet another assault on American energy production and the jobs that come with it. By cutting back the original oil shale and tar sands development lands by 75 percent, the Administration has made it clear that instead of going against their liberal environmentalist allies in an election year, their willing to import more foreign sources of oil and export more American jobs. It’s another failure in leadership from this White House while energy costs and unemployment are both far too high.”
LEE: "In his State of the Union, the President said he wanted to pursue an 'all of the above' energy strategy, but apparently that doesn't include one of the country's most abundant domestic sources.  That has to set a land speed record for broken promises.  Unfortunately, it will be the American people who suffer, both in lost jobs and in higher energy prices."
MATHESON: “If the goal is to become less dependent on foreign oil, we need more domestic supply, including from untapped sources. New methodology to extract oil from shale is on the horizon in Utah. It should be allowed to compete for commercial development and BLM’s proposed leasing rules are an obstacle.”
BISHOP: “The Department of Interior’s decision to radically reduce BLM lands available for energy production in Utah and other western states illustrates this Administration’s lack of commitment to advance energy independence and jobs in the U.S.  The political unrest occurring in many of the oil producing countries, upon which we increasingly rely, could send prices skyrocketing, and it’s hard-working Americans who would be forced to shoulder the burden of rising costs.  This doesn’t have to be the case when we have abundant resources located right here in the U.S. that remain untapped, and millions of Americans out of work who would benefit from the subsequent creation of new jobs. Unfortunately, though, we have an Administration that is focused more on reelection and appealing to their special interest group supporters than doing what’s right for the future of this country.”    
CHAFFETZ: “President Obama is hostile towards American energy. His decision to shut down oil shale development on public lands inhibits energy independence and economic growth.  BLM professionals conducted a three-year, stakeholder driven environmental analysis pursuant to the bipartisan Energy and Policy Act of 2005.  This apparently wasn’t good enough for the President.  His need to re-review the review is disappointing and is lacking in leadership.”
To view the letter to Secretary Salazar, click HERE. The full text of the letter is below:
February 7, 2012
The Honorable Ken Salazar
United States Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington, DC  20240
Dear Secretary Salazar:
We write to provide our comments on the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for Oil Shale and Tar Sands.  Our strongly held view is that the premise of the PEIS is supported by neither the spirit nor letter of the law, that the alternatives considered by this document are deficient, and that all of the preferred alternatives run contrary to the needs of the nation and of the President’s State of the Union message calling for an “all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy.”  The BLM’s stated preference for reducing the available acreage of oil shale and oil sands development by more than 75 percent causes the President’s statement to ring hollow.
Congress enacted the Oil Shale, Tar Sands, and Other Strategic Unconventional Fuels Act as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct 2005), which passed with a large bipartisan majority.  The law recognized the national strategic importance of developing domestic unconventional fuels and called for an effort by the relevant agencies of this government to “coordinate and accelerate the commercial development” of oil shale and oil sands.  That is the spirit and letter of the law.  With this announcement, the BLM is pursuing a path that is contrary to the clear intent of the law.
As required by EPAct 2005, three years of intensive studies, widespread stakeholder input, and robust public comment led to a comprehensive report by the Task Force on Strategic Unconventional Fuels and a final Oil Shale Rule in 2008 which set forth 2 million acres of land available for potential oil shale development. We fail to understand why that massive regulatory process, completed by countless government professionals, is being arbitrarily discarded by the BLM.  We also cannot discern whereby the BLM has the authority to unilaterally reverse enacted law or to break precedent by willfully failing to offer a No-Action Alternative.  Even the BLM’s early announcement that it would revisit the 2008 Oil Shale Rule to consider wilderness characteristics would have been forbidden by the Congressional funding moratorium on the Department of the Interior Secretarial Wildlands Order 3310.
It is well known that the Department of Energy has determined that U.S. oil shale resources are about three times as large as the proven oil reserves of Saudi Arabia.  As the world and our President must deal with an increasingly dangerous Middle East, it is unconscionable at this time to retreat from one of America’s greatest potential energy sources, especially when industry has shown the will and the means  to move forward.
As you well know, oil shale has been commercially produced and sold competitively in global oil markets for decades.  There is no lack of existing technology or data associated with that technology.  Moreover, there has already been an impressive level of investment by members of industry ready to bring current and enhanced technology to American oil shale deposits.  What is needed is a regulatory atmosphere that encourages this trend.  Sadly, it appears that your administration has taken every opportunity to send the opposite signal to this burgeoning industry.  The latest move by the BLM to restrict by more than 75 percent the acreage available to possible oil shale research and development would do harm to this industry and our nation’s energy security.
We strongly urge you to bring your department’s actions in line with the current law and the stated goals of the President Barack Obama.  Rather than retreat from this important and strategic undertaking, you should take steps to vigorously defend the 2008 Oil Shale PEIS.