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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch used his summer break Wednesday to continue his attack on Democrats for failing to pass a comprehensive energy bill that would speed up oil shale development in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.
"By ignoring our own resources, we are causing the demise of our own nation's greatness, while funding the rise of our international competitors, many of whom are not friendly to our interests," Hatch told state lawmakers in a rare appearance before a legislative committee.
Republicans across the country are using public outrage over high gas prices and Congress' summer recess to put pressure on Democrats to lift a ban on offshore drilling, end a moratorium on commercial oil-shale development on federal land and develop more nuclear power. Hatch was joined at the Capitol on Wednesday by fellow Utah Republican Rep. Rob Bishop.
Despite the legislative committee's chairman, Rep. Roger Barrus, R-Centerville, saying that Hatch and Bishop were there to answer questions about what challenges they face in shaping energy policy, the hearing was little more than a pep rally for oil shale development.
Industry officials say they are years away from developing oil shale on a commercial scale but need Congress to establish the ground rules before committing billions of dollars. Lifting the moratorium has the support of President Bush, who has called for lifting restrictions on oil shale leasing in the Green River Basin of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.
While drilling for oil shale has widespread support in conservative Utah, Democrats in Colorado and Wyoming are skeptical.
Oil shale enjoyed a fleeting promise during the 1970s when oil prices skyrocketed, but was abandoned by the early 1980s when prices dropped and Exxon shut down major operations in western Colorado.
Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, a Democrat, has said he's opposed to oil shale development because he's worried about how much energy will be used heat the rock necessary to extract oil from it or what the impact will be on the state's water supplies and quality would be.
Hatch said if people in Colorado don't want to develop oil shale there that's fine, but Utah should be allowed to. He said federal law already requires governors to be consulted before oil shale leases are granted.
"So why the moratorium when Colorado's governor or any other governor already has been given the courtesy of making the call on oil shale development for his state? The only answer could be that they want to make sure Utah's governor is never given the same courtesy to make a determination," Hatch said.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)