Obama admin locks up 1.6M acres from oil development

The Obama administration announced Friday it will put a large swath of western lands –1.6 million acres — off limits to oil shale and oil sands leases that hold the potential to develop more than a trillion barrels of oil.

The plan still allows for the development of nearly 700,000 acres in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming, but one key House Republican criticized the plan for limiting exploration that would further lead to energy independence.

???Allowing safe and responsible energy development on federal lands is a critical step toward reducing our dependence on Middle East oil, but rather than embrace our country???s resources, the president is designating even more federal areas as off-limits,??? said Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on energy and power.

???This is after we saw oil production on federal lands decline by an average of 275,000 barrels per day in fiscal year 2011. While other countries like Canada are busy growing their economy by developing their own resources, this administration is busy promoting policies that embargo our own oil from ourselves,??? Whitfield said.

Helen Hankins, director of the Colorado Bureau of Land Management, said the government is committed to encouraging research and development, but that ???technological and economic conditions have not combined to support a sustained commercial oil shale industry.???

???This plan lays a strong foundation to explore oil shale???s potential,??? Hankins said.