RBC I Colorado U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet has introduced an amendment cosponsored by Sen. Cory Gardner forcing the federal government to return revenues that are rightfully owed to Northwest Colorado.
The long overdue oil and gas lease revenues were collected to clean up the former Anvil Points federal oil shale research site near Rifle. Following the clean-up, which ended in 2013, tens of millions of dollars that should have been distributed according to the Mineral Leasing Act remained in an unused account in the Department of the Interior.
“These are royalty revenues that are rightfully due to counties in Northwest Colorado that have waited too long for their return,” Bennet said. “Tens of millions of dollars that can be put to good use for local economic development are locked in an account in Washington. Our amendment is common sense. It unlocks the payments and distributes them as all other oil and gas lease revenues are distributed—half to the state and local counties, and half to the federal Treasury.”
“It’s far past time that the federal government hands over the millions of dollars that communities in Northwest Colorado expected to receive years ago,” said Gardner. “While this revenue could boost our local communities, it continues to collect dust in an unused account. That’s why our amendment requires the federal government to deliver on its promise.”
The U.S. Navy opened the Anvil Points research site in the 1940s to pioneer oil shale mining, processing and research. It was decommissioned in 1986 and transferred to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) by the 1997 Transfer Act. That law required that cleanup of the site would be paid for by revenues from nearby oil and gas leasing.
By the time BLM certified that it had sufficient funds for cleanup in 2008, the fund had generated more than enough money. However, due to an oversight in the 1997 Transfer Act, the excess revenues cannot be distributed. The Bennet-Gardner amendment would allow these revenues to be distributed in accordance with the Mineral Leasing Act.
“AGNC members are pleased that there may finally be a resolution to the delivery of federal mineral lease funding withheld from them in relation to the Anvil Points cleanup,” said Bonnie Petersen, executive eirector of the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado. “It has been nearly two decades since these funds were withheld from NW Colorado counties to offset impacts of the development and several years since the cleanup was accomplished. We appreciate our federal delegation working so diligently to get these funds back to the counties impacted, especially as the Northwest Colorado region continues to lag recovery from the great recession.”