A legislative fix could push Roan settlement

Bob Beauprez, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, would have stood “shoulder to shoulder” with his opponent had Gov. John Hickenlooper chosen to fight two ballot initiatives aimed at curtailing oil and gas development.

Instead, Hickenlooper struck a compromise that pulled those measures, along with two pro-industry initiatives, off November’s ballot. Beauprez, in a meeting with the Sentinel’s editorial board on Tuesday, called the compromise “symptomatic” of the governor’s failure to lead.

Hopefully, Beauprez will be more supportive of Hickenlooper’s latest attempt to nurture an accord between environmentalists and energy producers, because whoever wins the governor’s race will have to finish what Hickenlooper has started: a legislative fix that could settle a long-standing dispute over drilling on the Roan Plateau.

It’s the final hurdle that could cinch a proposed settlement among a coalition of environmental groups, Bill Barrett Corp., and the Bureau of Land Management. Barrett is reportedly willing to give up some leases on the plateau top, which conservationists want to protect from drilling. The deal would allow energy development to proceed on potentially lucrative leases nearby. But the feds would have to refund Barrett for the value of the leases it relinquishes.

That means the state wouldn’t receive its share of federal mineral lease revenues until its stake in the payback is fulfilled, which would impact how much it doles out to energy-impacted communities. The Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado has objected to any clawback scheme that would result in fewer dollars going to the coffers of its members.

Who could blame them? Revenues intended for energy-impacted communities have already been raided by the Legislature to balance the budget.

Hickenlooper has offered to include a plan in his budget proposal to protect the flow of funds through the mineral lease revenue formula. So AGNC would be held harmless, as members have insisted they should be.

But preventing such liability would require a change in law, something Hickenlooper’s administration would support, according to Henry Sobanet, director of the Office of State Planning and Budgeting.

Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, has already told Garfield County Commissioners he would sponsor legislation to secure the revenue stream; an indication of bipartisan support for what we consider a win-win proposition.

If Rankin’s measure satisfies AGNC’s concerns, it will remove one more barrier. We think Hickenlooper exhibited leadership on this issue. If he fails to be re-elected, we hope Beauprez demonstrates leadership of his own by embracing an idea that wasn’t his, but serves all interests.


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