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Fossil Fuel Industry Trumps Climate Change in Public Land Sell-Off for Oil Shale, Tar Sands

Bureau of Land Management opens over 800,000 acres for oil shale and tar sands development in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming

- Common Dreams staff

An Obama administration plan to open over 800,000 acres of public land for oil shale and tar sands development in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming is another sign of the fossil fuel industry's reign of control trumping environmental and climate change concerns, say environmental groups.

“In the face of global warming, a drying West and Frankenstorms like Hurricane Sandy, devoting public lands to dirty, high-carbon development is very destructive public policy,” said Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity. (photo: BeforeItStarts via flickr) The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced on Friday its new proposal based on changes made to 2008 Bush administration land allocation decisions that were challenged by environmental groups over environmental, water and habitat concerns.

While the amended proposal allows for less than the 2 million acres under the Bush plan, it's still disastrous, says Taylor McKinnon, public lands campaigns director with the Center for Biological Diversity.

“Today’s plan isn’t as bad as the Bush administration’s, but it makes clear that the Department of the Interior is still listening to the fossil fuel industry and its politicians more than climate scientists,” stated McKinnon.

With both oil shale drilling and tar sands production set to pollute and destroy public lands and habitat, the plan turns a blind eye to climate change, adds McKinnon.

“Oil shale and tar sands development would be ruinous for the Colorado River basin and for the struggle to curb the greenhouse emissions that are causing climate change,” said  McKinnon. “The BLM should have chosen a plan that avoided those impacts by simply prohibiting those forms of development on public lands.”

“In the face of global warming, a drying West and Frankenstorms like Hurricane Sandy, devoting public lands to dirty, high-carbon development is very destructive public policy,” added McKinnon.

Utah Tar Sands Resistance also sees the climate folly in the decision, saying they are

convinced that the BLM decision to surrender roughly 830,000 acres of remote wild lands to tar sands and oil shale exploitation must be reversed to preserve human life on this planet. Tar sands and oil shale development proposed by the BLM will perpetuate climate change with extreme carbon emissions and poison the water supply of millions of people. We invite people to join our resistance actions in Utah next spring.

The acquisition of the environmentally sensitive areas for fossil fuel exploitation may amount to a Faustian bargain, said Kate Zimmerman, the National Wildlife Federation public lands policy director.

“We need to understand fully the trade-offs we are making before we seal the deal to commit a thousand square miles of public land to this risky business,’’ said Zimmerman. “If we don’t, good air and water quality, fish and wildlife values could be lost forever.”

Before the proposal is final there is a 30-day protest period and 60-day period for review by the affected governors.