Release Naval gas funds to the Western Slope
Third District Rep. Scott Tipton is trying to accomplish what several other members of Colorado’s congressional delegation have attempted — so far unsuccessfully.
Tipton wants the U.S. Department of Interior to release royalty funds raised from natural gas drilling at the former Naval Oil Shale Reserve west of Rifle.
We hope he is successful in freeing up the money that was designated by Congress in the 1990s to go to this region.
Of the money in the fund — last listed at $50 million — 49 percent is to be divided among four counties in northwestern Colorado, including Mesa County. The remaining 51 percent in the fund would remain with the Department of Interior.
The effort to get the funds released has been a bipartisan one. It began more than six years ago with former U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard, a Republican, and continued with Democratic Sens. Ken Salazar, Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, as well as Tipton’s predecessor in the 3rd District, John Salazar. But all were frustrated by delays and congressional inaction. Ken Salazar is now the Secretary of Interior, and should be able to assist in getting the money released.
The fund once contained more than $112 million, but much of that money was used to clean up the remains of the old oil shale test facility on the site. Although that work has been completed, the Interior Department has not yet certified its completion.
The $50 million figure is based on an accounting from 2008. It is not clear how much is in the fund now, after several more years of gas drilling and production.
Whatever that number is, 49 percent of it should go to Garfield, Rio Blanco, Mesa and Moffat counties, as was mandated under the legislation that transferred the Naval Oil Shale Reserve lands from the Energy Department to the Department of Interior.
Tipton, like members of Colorado’s congressional delegation before him, is attempting to secure money that was raised in this region at least in part for the communities of this region. He is not seeking to change the law or congressional intent, nor is he trying to take money from the general treasury to benefit this region.
There’s no good reason for the Interior Department or Congress to delay the release of these funds any longer.