Bennet, Gardner team up to return oil and gas revenues to Colorado

The federal government owes Colorado $48.8 million, according to Colorado’s senators. They are cosponsoring legislation to get that money back.

Sen. Michael Bennet has introduced an amendment cosponsored by Sen. Cory Gardner to force the federal government to return tens of millions in oil-and-gas revenues owed to Northwest Colorado.

An oil shale mining facility near Rifle called Anvil Points was decommissioned in the 1980s and transferred to the Bureau of Land Management in 1997. The law that initiated the transfer, known as the Transfer Act, required that revenues from nearby oil and gas leases be withheld to pay for the site’s eventual cleanup.

In 2008, the BLM certified that it had more than enough to complete the cleanup — tens of millions of dollars more, in fact — but an oversight in the Transfer Act meant the excess funds could not be returned to Colorado. According to the Mineral Leasing Act, $48.8 million should have been redistributed to affected counties. Instead, it’s been sitting in an unused account in the Department of the Interior since cleanup finished in 2013.

“These are royalty revenues that are rightfully due to counties in Northwest Colorado that have waited too long for their return,” said Bennet, who called the amendment “commonsense.”

Gardner agrees. “While this revenue could boost our local communities, it continues to collect dust in an unused account,” he said. “That’s why our amendment requires the federal government to deliver on its promise.”

The amendment will unlock the funds and distribute them as other oil and gas lease revenues are distributed: half to the state and local counties, and half to the federal Treasury.

The money is especially useful given the current economic climate in the region, says Bonnie Petersen, Executive Director of the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado.

“We appreciate our federal delegation working so diligently to get these funds back to the counties impacted, especially as the NW Colorado region continues to lag recovery from the great recession,” she said.

Photo credit: , frankieleon, Creative Commons, flickr