Will Shell Shale Deal Jail Gale?

Justice Department investigates former Interior chief's oil shale leases

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It’s no secret oil shale is one of the dirtiest fuels around, when considering its impacts on the climate, on air, on water, and on land. 

Now from the Los Angeles Times comes word that the Department of Justice is investigating some allegedly dirty dealing that helped foreign-owned Shell win the rights to half of all federal lands leased for oil shale research and development. The allegations are that Shell got a sweet deal in snagging three of six R&D leases when Gale Norton was Secretary of Interior. Not long after Interior awarded the leases to Shell, Ms. Norton resigned and got a job working for Shell on "unconventional fuels" including … oil shale.  

Coincidence? If not, Ms. Norton could be in some very hot water. As an anonymous law enforcement official interviewed by the Times said, "If [Norton] had feelers out, or was in discussions with Shell in any way, she is absolutely forbidden from participating in any way from doing anything with Shell."

This investigation is not just a story about the damaging and dirty energy policies of the past. It may well shed light on the Bush Adminstration’s reckless rush to embrace a damaging energy source, and give the current administration even more reason to take a measured, sober look at the true costs of oil shale. Given that hard look, we can only hope that oil shale will sink to the bottom of the priority list for energy sources.

Ted was an attorney in the Rocky Mountain regional office from 2003–2018. He protected wilderness, roadless areas and the planet's climate on behalf of conservation groups in the Four Corners' states.