State could lose Anvil Points money

The Obama administration’s budget proposal would allow the federal government to absorb $49 million in money that had been collected for the cleanup of an old oil shale plant in western Colorado.

The budget proposal also opens the possibility that energy companies could be charged more to drill on federal land, and it plans to recover $45 million from energy companies seeking drilling permits, according to a senior official in the Interior Department.

The $12 billion spending plan also would restore an equal split of royalty revenues with states.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, during his time as a Democratic senator from Colorado, sponsored unsuccessful legislation to divert money left over from the cleanup of the old Anvil Points Oil Shale research plant in Garfield County.

Officials in four northwest Colorado counties had hoped to use the money to help deal with the energy boom.

A previous effort by Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., to direct the money to Rio Blanco, Garfield, Mesa and Moffat counties also failed, as did one when the two senators joined efforts.

Rio Blanco and Garfield counties were each to get 40 percent of the surplus, while Mesa and Moffat were to split the remaining 20 percent equally.

The four counties are considered to be the most heavily affected by the height of the energy boom in the state.

“So we’re getting the big doughnut?” Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland said. “I’m speechless.”

The loss of hope for obtaining the money was “not entirely surprising,” said Reeves Brown, executive director of Club 20, the Western Slope lobbying and promotional organization. “It was unfortunate that Colorado didn’t step up when the opportunity was before us to make a bipartisan effort to secure that money.”

The region should have done better, said Aron Diaz, executive director of the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado, who noted officials and staffers familiar with the issue are still in place.

“It’s kind of interesting that they’re all in a position to do something about it, and that money is disappearing,” he said.

Salazar in 2007 reprimanded the Bush administration for proposing the unequal split of mineral royalty revenues. Now in charge of the Interior Department, Salazar proposed restoring the equal split of royalties from minerals removed from federal lands.

Congress approved a 51-49 percent split of those revenues in 2007 with the rationale being that the federal government needed to recoup its administrative costs dealing with drilling and other extraction issues.

Other aspects of the budget include new user fees for drill-permit applications aimed at recovering $45 million.

Royalty rates for onshore drilling, now 12.5 percent, could go up substantially under the Obama plan, possibly to a level comparable with the 18.75 percent royalty on offshore drilling.

“You know, we like 50 percent better than 49 percent,” said Theo Stein, spokesman for the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, which receives the state share of federal
royalties.

As for an increase in the royalty rate, “I think we would certainly be interested in learning more about that,” Stein said.

Colorado officials hadn’t had the opportunity to review the Anvil Points section of the proposal, he said.


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