The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Jennifer Dickson
Communications Manager
Office: (202) 556.2933

Interior Dept. Calls for Investigation into Oil Shale Leases

Moves to Reform Program Following Bush-Era Cronyism


The Department of the Interior announced today it is calling on
the Inspector General to conduct an investigation into an unprecedented deal on
oil shale research, development and demonstration (RD&D) leases for a
select few companies during the final days of the Bush administration. The
Wilderness Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Western Resource
Advocates are encouraged by this announcement that should improve the process
and accountability of decisions on land leases.

the Obama administration is taking a more careful approach to potential oil
shale development on our public lands than we've seen in the past,"
said Chase Huntley, an
energy policy analyst with The Wilderness Society. "It is very encouraging that
Secretary Salazar has asked the Interior Department's Inspector General
to look into the circumstances of the 11th hour "lease
addenda" attached to the research leases obtained by oil companies,
including Shell."

announcement also opened an additional opportunity for companies seeking
federal lands for research, development, and demonstration of oil shale
technologies. Although conservation organizations and local officials have
questioned the necessity of making additional public lands open to oil shale
development given the significant oil shale resources already under private
control, the new solicitation reflects a commitment to science-based
decision-making not political favoritism, according to policy experts.

history of oil shale has been plagued with scandal and cronyism, and
today's announcement shows why we need a better approach to
America's energy," said Bobby McEnaney, lands advocate for the
Natural Resources Defense Council, "We are encouraged that Secretary
Salazar is looking to make decisions based on an open and accountable system
that will protect our land, not the corporate favoritism of the previous

According to
land advocates, there are many technological, economic and environmental
questions that need to be resolved before oil shale development can make a
significant contribution to America's energy needs. The Bureau of Land
Management has called the technology rudimentary, and companies have asserted
that decisions about technological viability is still years away.

As research
from Western Resource Advocates has shown, (Water on the Rocks, oil shale
will have profound effects on western water that have not yet been addressed.

"Washington must consider the effects of oil shale
development in the West," said Karin P. Sheldon, President of Western
Resource Advocates. "Impacts to our natural resources and
landscapes would be very real. Oil shale development would diminish already
limited water supplies, harm
wildlife, and increase the threat of catastrophic climate change."