Mead opposed to BLM plan limiting property for shale

May 8, 2012 By Ben Neary, The Associated Press

CHEYENNE -- Gov. Matt Mead has told the U.S. Bureau of Land Management that he disagrees with the agency's proposal to reduce the amount of land in the state available to possible oil shale research and demonstration projects by placing sage grouse areas as well as potential wilderness lands and areas of critical environmental concern off-limits.

The BLM proposes to cut the acreage available for the oil shale projects and research from 2 million acres approved by the Bush administration in Wyoming, Colorado and Utah down to about 460,000 acres, of which nearly 175,000 are in Wyoming. The agency is working on a draft environmental study and intends to make leasing decisions by this fall.

Mead filed his comments Friday with the BLM. Spokesmen for environmental groups said Monday they disagreed with Mead's position and warned that oil shale development could leave sites heavily disturbed.

Oil shale is rock that holds deposits of fossilized algae that never received enough pressure to produce crude oil. While the American West contains huge deposits of the material, success at getting it to produce oil on a commercially viable basis has proved elusive.

Mead stated in his comments that further oil shale research, development and demonstration are warranted. He said areas least susceptible to adverse impacts from oil shale projects and easiest to reclaim would be best suited to the projects.

However, Mead said he disagreed with the federal agency's proposal to exclude possible development from sage grouse core areas, land with wilderness characteristics and in designated acres of critical environmental concern.

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