Oil shale boom weighs on officials

The prospect of another oil shale boom hitting Northwest Colorado continues to be a cause for concern for local governments.

An oil shale boom hit the region in the late 1970s. When the boom ended in the early 1980s, local governments saw a mass exodus of people.

At the Associated Govern--ments of Northwest Colorado meeting Thursday in Craig, officials from the five counties in Northwest Colorado discussed the prospect of another boom hitting the area.

"We were slammed, and we're going to be slammed again," Rifle Mayor Keith Lambert said.

When the last oil shale boom ended, Lambert said it turned Battlement Mesa into a ghost town, and Rifle wasn't much better off.

Mining the shale and extracting oil from it failed in the early 1980s because the process was too expensive. Shell Oil Co. is developing a new, less-expensive process for extracting oil from the shale, but the process is at least a few years away.

AGNC represents cities and counties within the five counties in the northwest corner of the state.

In July, the organization teamed with the Colorado Department of Local Affairs to commission a $48,000 study to look at the effects another boom could have on the region. The study is expected to take three years to complete.

At Thursday's meeting, AGNC members said that if local governments hope to be prepared for an oil shale boom and the toll it will take on government services, they need to work together.

"We have a much stronger voice as a united front than we do as individuals," Mesa County Commissioner Craig Meis said.

Garfield County Commissioner Larry McCown said oil shale development isn't a sure thing.

And oil shale isn't the only important issue on the horizon for Northwest Colorado, McCown said.

An influx of people building second homes in resort areas is one of the most pressing issues facing places such as Garfield County, McCown said.

Moffat County Commissioner Darryl Steele said he also is concerned about an influx of construction workers living in Moffat County and working in Steamboat Springs.

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