In today’s column in the Ely Times online — and in the print versions of the Ely, Eureka and Hawthorne weekly papers — we point out that central Nevada may be sitting on billions of barrels oil in something called the Chainman Shale formation, but the Bureau of Land Management has closed off thousands of acres from exploration lest the drilling disturb the habitat of the sage-gouse, which is not an endangered species but might be someday.
The Chainman Shale formation lies largely in an 80- to 100-mile radius around Duckwater — including almost all of White Pine County, major portions of Nye, Lincoln, Elko, Eureka and Lander counties, as well as parts of a couple of counties in Utah.
The formation is believed to be rich in oil, though most lies 2 to 5 miles underground, making drilling expensive.
Earlier this month the BLM was going to auction oil and gas leases on 133,000 acres in its Ely and Elko districts, but slashed the land available to 72,000 acres. A June lease auction has similarly been pared down.
Rep. Mark Amodei, who currently represents the bulk of rural Nevada in Congress, blasted the decision as short-sighted and illogical.
“The sage-grouse are not threatened by energy projects or mining operations, which comprise less than 1 percent of Nevada’s land area,” Amodei pointed out. “Such delays needlessly halt conventional and renewable energy projects that can create jobs and power the growth of Nevada’s economy.”
The congressman noted the BLM action is predicated on the supposition that the bird might be designated as an endangered species. He said the decision ignores the fact the true threat to the sage-grouse habitat is wildfire. “By undermining multi-use energy development instead of focusing on the wildfire threat, BLM could do serious damage to economic development efforts across the Silver State.”
But Obama went to Boulder City this week and stood beside some solar panels and called for taking away tax breaks for oil companies, proclaiming, “We want to encourage production of oil and gas, and make sure that wherever we’ve got American resources, we are tapping into them. But they don’t need an additional incentive when gas is $3.75 a gallon, when oil is $1.20 a barrel, $1.25 a barrel.” The price of a barrel of sweet crude is about 100 times higher than that and 12.5 percent royalty could produce a bit of cash for the state and the federal to spend. But more importantly it would create jobs.