Allard: Roan plan could have helped

Former Sen. Wayne Allard speaks Friday to a political science class at Mesa State College. His topic was the budget process in state and federal government.

Had Colorado agreed to the early arrangements for natural gas drilling on the Roan Plateau, the state’s budget woes wouldn’t have been as onerous as they are, former U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., said Friday.

Allard, who retired in 2008 after serving two terms in the Senate, spoke Friday to Professor Justin Gollob’s State and Local Government class at Mesa State College.

In an interview afterward, Allard said he wasn’t sorry he chose not to seek a third term in the Senate, but he wished a plan for drilling natural gas on the Roan Plateau that ultimately was rejected by state officials had gone through.

That drilling program called for a maximum of 1 percent of the 55,000 acres on the plateau to be disturbed at any one time.

Backers of the plan said that leasing could bring in $1 billion, and possibly more, in one-time payments to the federal government in the form of severance tax and royalty payments. Of that amount, 49 percent would have gone to the state.

When the acreage was leased in late 2008, as the bottom was falling out of the gas market, the lease fetched $114 million.

Much of the money from the state share of about $55 million was earmarked for higher education, but was used instead for deficit reduction.

Had the lease auction been conducted beforehand, as he advocated, “The state wouldn’t be in the place it is today,” Allard said.

Gov. Bill Ritter supports phased leasing of the plateau to ensure that the state gets fair value for the gas buried beneath the Roan Plateau, Ritter spokesman Evan Dreyer said.

At the time, Allard said the “efforts of anti-energy politicians took their toll in the form of lower bids than we expected and cost Coloradans millions of dollars by pandering to the extreme environmentalists.”

Colorado faces continuing revenue shortfalls as the result of the recession.

Allard acknowledged to a student that the recession is technically over, but he said people can’t be blamed for thinking otherwise.

Continuing unemployment makes it seem otherwise, even with the growth of 150,000 new private-sector jobs reflected in the most recent report, Allard said.

“As far as you’re concerned and as far as I’m concerned,” he said, “we’re still in a recession.”

In the class, Allard, a former state legislator, discussed the differences between state and federal budgeting.


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