DENVER — State officials are expecting the U.S. Department of Interior to cut a check today for royalty payments owed to four Western Slope counties from the defunct Anvil Points Naval Oil Shale Testing Facility.

That check, the exact amount of which still isn't known, will go to Mesa and three other area counties thanks to a bill rushed through the Colorado Legislature this month and signed by the governor last week.

That measure, HB1249, called on dividing the money to the counties based on an older federal royalty payment disbursement schedule that no longer is used. Without the bill, the money would have gone through a new direct payment process that spreads the money to local governments throughout the state.

Under the bill, Garfield and Rio Blanco counties are to receive 40 percent each, while Mesa and Moffat counties will see 10 percent each. No one is exactly sure how much money is to come to the state, but estimates range from $16.5 million to $18 million.

Anvil Points, located on the Roan Plateau not far from Rifle, was the site of a research project to test ways to turn oil shale into a mineable energy resource. It later was shut down, but it took years of remediation to clean up a large pile of burned oil shale, work that was completed in 2013.

That cleanup effort, however, resulted in a freezing of royalty payments to the four counties.

In anticipation of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announcing the federal government would release whatever money was leftover after paying for that cleanup, which he did earlier this month, Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, introduced the bill last February.

Once Zinke said a check would be cut at the end of March, Rankin had the bill fast-tracked through the Legislature.

Recommended for you