BLM writes rulebook for oil shale

Laramie, Wyo. – An environmental group is railing against the government's new set of rules for oil shale development in the Rocky Mountain West.

The Bureau of Land Management published the document Monday. It describes the path that private investors must follow to extract up to 800 billion barrels of oil in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah. The Natural Resource Defense Council's Amy Mall says it's too early to move forward with the project.

"This is an industry that doesn't even exist yet, and research on technology that will be used to produce oil shale won't be completed for 10 years, so there is no way a government can write regulations to govern this industry. The information isn't there," Mall says.

The B-L-M document explains leasing rules and acreage limitations. It also gives companies a steep discount on the royalties they pay to the government. Critics say that will harm the state budgets that rely on mineral royalties.

The B-L-M's Mitchell Leverette acknowledges the impacts of oil shale development are still unknown. But he says that will be cleared up before companies are allowed to drill.

"And that is a requirement in the regulations. When the applicants come to the table, they will have to have enough information on what technology they will use and what potential impacts will be before we consider leasing."

Leverette says developing the technology and completing environmental studies will take years. He says drilling might not happen before 2015.

Experts estimate up to 800 billion barrels of oil could be tapped in the Rocky Mountain West. That's enough to displace oil imports for 100 years.