Huntsman wants feds to move quickly on oil shale |

Huntsman wants feds to move quickly on oil shale

Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman delivers the opening address at the 28th Oil Shale Symposium at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colo., Monday, Oct. 13, 2008. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

GOLDEN ” The governor of one of three states that could benefit greatly from oil shale says the Interior Department should move quickly and write regulations for its development before a new administration takes over.

Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman said his state is open to the potential of developing the more than 1 trillion barrels of oil believed to be trapped in rock in a swath of land cutting through Utah, northwestern Colorado and Wyoming. It amounts to about three times the proven oil reserves of Saudi Arabia.

“My bottom line to you is that we in our state are open to business as it relates to oil shale,” Huntsman told the audience Monday at an oil shale symposium at Colorado School of Mines in Golden.

The world’s largest deposit of oil shale is in the three Western states, a resource that could cut the nation’s reliance on foreign energy and create jobs and other benefits, Huntsman said.

About three-quarters of the reserves are on federal land. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has approved a plan that would open nearly 2 million acres to commercial oil shale development.

The BLM has also issued draft rules to enact the plan. A congressional ban on using federal funds to write final regulations expired last month.

Critics of the federal plan note that companies are still testing technology to tap the kerogen, a precursor that wasn’t buried deeply enough or naturally processed long enough to complete the transformation to oil. Freeing the oil from the rock has been tried on and off for nearly a century.

“For the first time in a generation, I would argue we have a real shot at actually getting something done,” said Huntsman, a Republican.

Colorado officials, including Gov. Bill Ritter, a Democrat, have called on the federal government to slow down on plans for commercial development. They argue that questions about the economics and potential environmental and social impacts haven’t been answered.

“From Colorado’s perspective, there’s an enormous amount at stake in the outcome of all these issues,” said Harris Sherman, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.

Sen. Ken Salazar and Reps. Mark Udall and John Salazar, all Colorado Democrats, sponsored the one-year moratorium on federal funding for writing final regulations on commercial oil shale development.

Sherman said Colorado is “absolutely in favor” of research and development into oil shale. He said its successful commercial development could be important in helping meeting the country’s energy needs.

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