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February 27, 2009

Contact: Kristina Johnson

Sierra Club Works to Protect Yampa River from Oil Industry Water Grab
Shell Oil Co. Wants Nearly One-Tenth of Water for Dirty Oil Shale Development

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, CO - The Sierra Club is fighting to protect a key river in northwestern Colorado from a water grab by the oil industry.

In December, Shell Oil Co. applied to state water court for rights to divert nearly one-tenth of the Yampa River's water into a massive reservoir, where it would be kept for future development of oil shale, an unproven fossil fuel that requires tremendous quantities of water and energy to produce.

In an effort to protect the Yampa River and the fish, wildlife, and communities that depend on it, the Sierra Club filed a statement of opposition in Colorado Water Court today to block Shell's request.

"Communities, ranchers, fish and wildlife all rely on the Yampa River. It doesn't make sense to hand over our scarce water just so an oil company can squander it on a pipe dream like oil shale," said Sierra Club Representative Eric Huber.

Shell proposes building a 45,000-acre-foot water reservoir and taking 375 cubic feet per second of water from the river during peak flows. The water would be used for future development of oil shale, which is extremely energy and water intensive.

Producing a liquid fuel from oil shale entails heating solid rock to temperatures in excess of 600F.  The large amounts of energy needed to heat and process oil shale would increase the global warming emissions that contribute to climate change.

Industry proposals to produce one million barrels of shale oil per day could require an estimated ten new, large coal-fired power plants to produce the energy needed to process the shale. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) estimates that producing each barrel of oil would require three barrels of water. In Colorado alone, oil shale development could consume more water than the Denver Metro area, home to over 2 million people.

"It takes three barrels of water to produce a single barrel of oil from shale," Huber said. "Oil shale is an energy and water hog. It threatens to accelerate global warming, destroy fish and wildlife habitat, and pollute the air we breathe. There are better ways to use our limited water."

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