The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has finalized plans to open some 1.9 million acres of public lands in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming to oil-shale development, a necessary step on the road to tapping the vast reserves. The technology for turning oil shale into usable crude oil is energy-intensive and heavily polluting, but the Bush administration has pushed to clear the way for exploiting U.S. oil-shale deposits in the name of energy independence; oil-shale deposits in the three states could hold up to 800 billion barrels of recoverable oil. However, the processes for developing oil-shale deposits are still largely in the experimental stage so the full extent of the process’s impacts on air quality, water quality, and wildlife in the area are as yet poorly understood. Environmentalists and Democrats in the region criticized the BLM’s plan as misguided and premature. “Finalizing an environmental impact statement without any clear understanding of the environmental, community, economic, and energy impacts of commercial-scale oil shale development is irresponsible, short-sighted, and premature,” said Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter (D).
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