Feds take deliberate approach of oil shale leasing

Concerns and conflict over the first round of federal oil shale leases in the Rockies have made the government more deliberate in the second round, a federal official said Friday.

Alan Gilbert, a senior adviser to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, said during an oil shale forum that a team of federal and state representatives will review the applications from three companies for 160-acre parcels.

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The leases on public land are for research and development of technology to tap the oil locked in shale under northwest Colorado, Wyoming and Utah. The companies showing progress could expand work to 640 acres.

“There is a more deliberate pace, intentionally, toward this second round of leasing,” Gilbert said at a daylong oil shale conference by the University of Colorado Law School’s Natural Resources Law Center.

As a U.S. [Read the full article]

A federal judge temporarily lifted pumping limits Friday designed to protect endangered wild salmon in order to speed more irrigation water to California’s drought-addled fields.

Some of the country’s largest farms had pressed for the protections to be suspended to nurture their fields and orchards. West Coast fishermen argued the limits were necessary to save their dwindling catch.

“This means there’s progress, and anything’s better than nothing,” said Tim Heskett, 44, who grows 150 acres of pistachios near the tiny community of Mendota, on the west side of the parched San Joaquin Valley. “I got this little ranch that I’m trying to keep together, so maybe this is a sign of a little bit of hope.”

In normal years, the sweeping valley grows most of the country’s fruits and vegetables, but a persistent drought and restrictions on pumping from the state’s freshwater estuary have hammered the region, causing drastic job losses and other economic woes. [Read the full article]

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Friday it has abandoned a program that was intended to trace the movement of farm animals around the country but garnered little support from farmers.

Instead, the department announced plans for a new, more flexible program to be administered by states and tribes to strengthen disease prevention and response. The program will only apply to animals moved in interstate commerce and will encourage the use of low-cost technology.

The decision came after Agriculture Department officials heard widespread opposition to the national animal identification system at 15 meetings around the country last year.

“They finally came to their senses,” said Mack Birkmaire, a cattleman in rural Joseph, Ore., laughing in a telephone interview.

Implemented in 2004, the voluntary program was intended to pinpoint an animal’s location within 48 hours after a disease is discovered, to better prevent and respond to outbreaks. [Read the full article]

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says the US has a low risk of a double-dip recession.

Geithner (guy-tner) told ABC News in an interview that will air Sunday on “This Week” that the U.S. is at a lower risk “than at any time over the last 12 months or so.” He said the economy is growing at the most rapid rate in six years during the last quarter of the year. And he believes the country is in “the process of healing.”

The Dow finished slightly up Friday after falling 268 points on growing worries about the global economy the previous day. The outlook for jobs became a bit less bleak when the government released January’s unemployment rate showing an unexpected decline from 10 percent to 9.7 percent. It was the first drop in seven months.

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. [Read the full article]

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