COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) – It’s important to protect the planet as we use its resources, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said Monday night at a conference where he spoke on the Colorado River but also took a swipe at a Colorado congressman’s push for oil shale development.
Salazar spoke during the State of the Rockies Project conference at Colorado College, where students have been studying how to preserve the Colorado River basin.
The Colorado River system provides municipal water for more than 30 million people in Arizona, California, Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico, and it also benefits about 6 million Mexicans.
But climate change, drought and population growth in the West have heightened interest in how the states and Mexico can continue sharing the river and still support irrigation, hydropower, tourism, recreation, agricultural and municipal needs and wildlife.
Salazar said the Colorado River Compact that outlines how seven Western states and Mexico will share the river system’s water was created without the best science or knowledge.
The agreement wrongly assumed there was 2 million acre-feet more available than there really is, he said. Nevertheless, he said the compact will not be reopened.
Within Salazar’s department, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is reviewing ideas for how to address a projected imbalance in Colorado River basin supply and demand.
Meanwhile the U.S. and Mexico continue to negotiate details of how to share the river. Salazar’s appearance Monday came the same day that 25 conservation groups delivered a petition urging the U.S. and Mexico to allow some flows to return to the dried-up delta where the Colorado River flows into the Gulf of California.
Salazar said the U.S. and Mexico hope to announce results of the negotiations soon. He didn’t give a timetable.
Salazar also used his speech to tout President Barack Obama’s “all of the above” energy strategy and to criticize Rep. Doug Lamborn’s push for oil shale development.
Salazar said no one has a silver bullet that can take down gas prices. Yet under Obama, there have been advances in development of oil, natural gas, renewable energy and nuclear power, helping push down imports of oil, Salazar said.’
“We will support oil and gas development – in the right places,” Salazar said.
Lamborn, R-Colo., has pushed for the Interior Department to accelerate oil shale development. Unlike with shale oil or gas, companies haven’t found a commercially viable way of developing oil from oil shale, which must be heated at extremely high temperatures first.
“How much water would be required to develop these oil shale resources? Where would that water come from,” Salazar said. “What will be the consequences to farmers and ranchers?” Salazar didn’t address the amounts of water needed to develop other sources of energy such as solar power.
In response to a reporter, Salazar said he hasn’t thought ahead to whether he would serve four more years in his post but said there remains a lot of work to do as secretary.
“It’s the greatest job in the capital and the most fun job and a job I genuinely enjoy every day,” he said.
By CATHERINE TSAI, Associated Press
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