| For Immediate Release
January 31, 2006
Contact: Kassie Siegel, Center for Biological Diversity, (760) 366-2232 x302 (office) or (951) 961-7972 (mobile)
BUSH ADMINISTRATION IGNORES GLOBAL WARMING IN PROPOSAL TO OPEN VAST AREAS TO OPEN PIT MINING FOR LOW QUALITY FOSSIL FUELS
GRAND JUNCTION, COLORADO (January 31, 2006) – In the first phase ending today of a planning process for the development of low quality fossil fuels in the western United States, the Bush administration has entirely omitted consideration of global warming.
“The proposal to open huge areas of public land in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming to tar sands and oil shale development would create vast quantities of new greenhouse gas pollution and destroy biologically and recreationally important areas,” said Kassie Siegel, Climate, Air and Energy Program Director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “It is scandalous that that the Bush administration is attempting to omit global warming from the list of issues under consideration.”
The development of oil shale and tar sands in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming was fast-tracked by the Oil Shale, Tar Sands, and Other Strategic Unconventional Fuels Act of 2005 (Section 369(d)(2) of the Energy Policy Act of 2005), which requires the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the agency charged with management of the public lands affected, to complete a draft environmental impact statement within 18 months and a final regulation establishing a leasing program for tar sands and oil shale within six months thereafter. The law does not require that the leasing program include any particular area or amount of land or resources.
Oil production from tar sands and oil shale involves open pit mining over large areas and is one of the most environmentally destructive forms of energy production in existence today. The areas proposed for oil shale development in the Piceance and Washakie Basins in Colorado, the Uintah Basin in Utah, and the Green River and Washakie Basins in Wyoming, and the areas proposed for tar sands development on the Colorado Plateau in Utah are biologically rich and diverse areas with extraordinary wilderness and recreation value. Endangered, threatened and rare species in the planning area include the bald eagle, the Colorado pikeminnow, the boreal toad, and plants including the Dudley Bluffs bladderpod and twinpod and the parachute beardtongue. Numerous wilderness study areas and “Areas of Critical Environmental Concern” also occur in the planning areas.
After open-pit strip mining, extraction of low-quality crude oil from oil shale and tar sands requires extraordinary amounts of energy, heat and water, resulting in further impacts to water quality and supply as well as extra energy use and air pollution. Because of this resource-intensive process, the greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands production are three times that of conventional oil production. Oil shale production, which is still largely experimental, may be even more energy intensive.
Today’s comment deadline marks the close of the first phase of a required environmental review process under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in which the government must disclose and analyze the full environmental impacts of the proposed development. The BLM published in December 2005 a list of major issues it planned to consider and solicited public comment. Greenhouse gas emissions and global warming were conspicuously absent from the list of issues proposed for consideration, despite the fact that tar sands and oil shale production would create more greenhouse gas pollution than nearly any other type of energy production. The omission is typical of the Bush administration’s tactics of denying and suppressing the best available scientific information on climate change.
Global warming is accelerating much more rapidly than projected even just a few years ago. Increased intensity of hurricanes battering the United States, more extreme and prolonged heat waves which caused thousands of deaths in Europe, and more pronounced droughts are a few of the many impacts attributed to global warming. According to the World Health Organization, global warming is already causing 154,000 deaths per year.
Global warming is emerging as one of the leading threats to all species worldwide. This month, a study published in the preeminent scientific journal Nature linked the extinction of dozens of amphibian species in Central and South America to global warming. Other researchers have estimated that up to one third of the species included in a study of 20 percent of the world’s surface area may be committed to extinction because of global warming by the year 2050.
The Arctic has experienced global warming particularly early and intensely, where average winter temperatures have already increased by 10 degrees Fahrenheit in some areas, and are projected to rise by 18 degrees Fahrenheit or more by the end of this century. The Arctic sea ice is rapidly melting away, and ice-dependent species like the polar bear are expected to become extinct if greenhouse gas emissions are not greatly reduced.
“Fast-tracking the development of low quality oil shale and tar sands which create three times or more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil development is near the top of a long list of irrational, dangerous, and irresponsible energy and global warming policies from the Bush administration in 2005,” said Siegel. “Development of oil shale and tar sands is not part of a climate-safe future for the United States or the world.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is non-profit organization dedicated to protecting imperiled species and their habitats by combining scientific research, public organizing, and advocacy. More information is available at http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/swcbd/programs/policy/energy/index.html.