County 2005 2035 (baseline) 2035 with oil shale) Difference
Garfield 50,673 136,697 154,301 17,604
Mesa 130,662 235,272 241,746 6,474
Moffat 13,426 26,356 31,487 5,131
Rio Blanco 6,073 18,624 39,013 20,389
Region total 200,834 416,949 466,547 49,598
- Source: Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado
Steamboat Springs The Routt County Board of Commissioners will back an effort to slow the commercial production of oil shale in Northwest Colorado.
On Tuesday, the commissioners voted unanimously to sign a letter to Colorado's Congressional delegation. The letter, being prepared by the Colorado Environmental Coalition, asks that the members of Congress support an extension through 2009 of a funding limitation that prevents the Bureau of Land Management from selling commercial leases for oil shale production.
Sasha Nelson, the coalition's northwest organizer, told the commissioners that more time should be taken to research the viability of oil shale development technologies.
"This resource isn't going anywhere," Nelson said. "We're not saying let's not look at this resource. We're saying go slowly."
Oil shale is a sedimentary rock that contains hydrocarbons. It has long been debated as a potential energy resource that could increase the U.S.'s energy independence, and Nelson said the BLM is under political pressure to make progress on oil shale because of provisions in the Energy Act of 2005. There are large deposits of oil shale in Northwest Colorado, particularly in Garfield, Mesa, Moffat and Rio Blanco counties.
"It's way too early to be pursuing the commercial leasing of oil sands," Commissioner Doug Monger said. "How do you know the value of that when you don't know the cost of extraction or the cost of the commodity you're extracting?"
Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush noted the "already enormous economic impacts" from the production of other energy resources such as natural gas. According to analysis and forecasts commissioned by the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado, the combined population of Garfield, Mesa, Moffat and Rio Blanco counties is expected to more than double by 2035 - without oil shale development. There is also already a concern that the cost to governments to handle the growth likely will exceed energy revenues.
Oil shale "completely blows up the model," Monger said. "I think it is important for the Routt County commissioners to take a position on this because it will affect Routt County."
While there would be little direct effect on Routt County from oil shale development, Nelson said secondary effects such as air pollution should be a concern for local officials. Nelson also has asked the Steamboat Springs City Council to sign the letter. The city's Intergovernmental Services Department is evaluating the request.
"While it is true that Steamboat is not planted atop a layer of commercially viable oil shale, the secondary impacts to a community like Steamboat could be astronomical," Nelson said. "Air pollutants are going to get sucked right down the valley."
Nelson said the city of Grand Junction, the mayor of Rifle, San Miguel County and Pitkin County also have supported the letter and that the coalition still is working with Mesa, Garfield, Moffat and Rio Blanco counties. The coalition met with the Meeker Town Board last night.
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