The United States possesses roughly 70 percent of the world's oil shale deposits. Some of the richest known deposits lie in basins within the Green River Formation along the border of Colorado, Wyoming and Utah - the focus of most on-going oil shale research and development extraction projects in the U.S.
In an area that provides critical habitat and migration corridors for elk, mule deer and sage grouse and natural habitat for cutthroat trout, oil shale is being explored as a potential energy and fuel source, despite past failures to extract oil shale at a commercially-viable level.
Oil shale development requires an incredible amount of energy because large amounts of rock must be heated to extremely high temperatures to release the oil. Commercial oil shale development would cause significant air pollution, destroy thousands of acres of wildlife habitat and consume huge quantities of water. Current information reveals that commercial oil shale production could consume about 50 percent more water than the entire Denver Metro area uses annually - a dangerous situation amid predictions of U.S. water shortages.
With 13,000 oil and gas wells already in place in the Piceance Basin, the cumulative impacts that would result from oil shale development cannot be ignored. While energy development would appear to be a boon to the regional economy, it can also seriously and negatively impact local communities, infrastructure, wildlife and natural resources. Research shows that Rifle, in Garfield County would triple its population by 2035 if development of conventional resources is supplemented by a commercial oil shale industry.