The Bureau of Land Management cleared the way for three oil companies to lease public land for experimental oil shale projects in western Colorado.

The federal agency said Monday the research and development projects would have minimal impact on the environment, a claim disputed by environmentalists.

BLM spokesman Vaughn Whatley said the test operations “could begin as early as next summer.”

Shell, Chevron USA and EGL Resources want to test technology for extracting oil from shale on five 160-acre parcels of land in Rio Blanco County, in Colorado’s Piceance Basin. . . .

The Green River shale deposits in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming are estimated to contain 1.5 trillion to 1.8 trillion barrels of oil. And while not all of it can be recovered, half that amount is nearly triple the proven oil reserves of Saudi Arabia.

Last month, a Shell executive said he was optimistic about the company’s research on oil shale extraction, adding that Shell’s project in western Colorado could become reality by the middle of the next decade.

Much more here. Plus, some environmentalists are complaining. Hey, we can always build some nice clean nuclear plants, instead. . . .

Thanks to reader Linda Seebach for the links.