In the second driest state in the country, water is not a resource that the agricultural community takes for granted. Ranchers and farmers in eastern Utah can find it challenging to meet our water demands even during a good year. That is why I and other locals are against unsustainable, ill-advised draws on our limited water, such as the proposed nuclear power plant in Green River and the rapid push to develop oil shale commercially.
Regarding oil shale development, a historically volatile and unproven industry that would require vast amounts of water, several other ranchers and farmers and I just sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in support of his go-slow approach. Under the Department of Interior's preferred alternative, companies would be given a green light to perform research and development on existing leases, and the public would be given time to study and understand the impacts to our economies and natural resources. As we noted in our letter, oil shale development will require anywhere from one-four barrels of water for every barrel of oil produced. We know way too little about how commercial-scale oil shale development would impact agriculture and local communities to rush forward with commercial leasing of our public lands, as some are calling for. Salazar, who comes from a multigenerational ranching family himself, has demonstrated that he understands western water concerns. Now, if only we had similar leadership on the nuclear power plant issue.