Senators: Give states the federal mineral lease money
Legislation to be introduced in the U.S. Senate would require the Interior Department to pass the state shares of federal mineral lease revenues directly to them.
The measure would prevent plans by the Interior Department to release state shares of federal mineral lease money from 2013 in 2014 while at the same time withholding lease shares from 2014 for release in 2015.
Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, both Democrats, on Friday said they would introduce a bill Sept. 9 requiring that the 2013 state shares of money be released immediately.
The State Mineral Revenue Release Act also would ensure that state shares wouldn’t be subject to the federal cost-cutting measure known as sequestration.
Under sequestration, an across-the-board 5.1 percent reduction was imposed on federal programs.
Sequestration cost Colorado $5.7 million and Utah $6.1 million in federal mineral lease money. In all, the federal government withheld $109 million from states in which federal lands are leased for mineral development.
The Bennet-Udall bill would remove the budget account for mineral lease revenues from the sequester, restoring the arrangement that was in place since 1920 until the sequester.
“The sequester is bad policy to begin with, and we should work to fix it in a comprehensive way,” Bennet said in a statement.
“But these mineral leasing revenues are not federal spending and shouldn’t be covered under the law,” he said.
“Sequestration should never have been applied to federal mineral royalty payments, and this important bill clarifies that such cuts are illegal,” Udall said. “Congress must find a bipartisan way to replace sequestration, but this bill will provide Colorado communities much-needed certainty in the meantime.”
U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., is a cosponsor of a measure in the House, H.R. 1972, that would amend existing law to give states the option to collect their shares of the mineral royalties directly from producers.