Oil Shale Lawsuits Settled

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(Photo courtesy of Flicker user Asia Blue)

Interview reported and produced by Ben Markus

Colorado’s western slope holds a trillion barrels of oil. That's more than the world’s reserves combined. The only problem is it’s locked deep in shale rock. For a long time, companies have tried to get at this oil. Now their efforts are on hold since the federal government settled a pair of lawsuits from environmental groups. Jason Hanson is an energy policy researcher at CU-Boulder’s Center of the American West. He says environmentalists were worried about the nearly two and half million acres of federal land the government opened up for oil shale exploration.

Jason Hanson: “Their concern is that they released a broad swath of land that contains a wide variety of landscapes and ecosystems, some of which, they contend, are too sensitive to be subjected to oil shale development.”

Environmental groups also raised concerns over how much money the American people would get from the oil companies in return for developing that land. The royalty rate for oil shale started at less than half of what other extractive industries pay.

Jason Hanson: “The Department of Interior is statutorily obligated to get a fair return for tax payers, and they contended that that did not represent a fair return.”

You’ll hear more about the settlement on Colorado Matters. But first Hanson explains to Ryan Warner what oil shale is.