$18 million in federal oil and gas lease dollars headed to western Colorado counties after years-long battle
Some $18 million in federal oil and gas lease revenue is slated to be distributed among four Western Slope counties after it was set aside but never used for cleanup of the Anvil Points federal oil shale research site.
The news Tuesday ends a yearslong battle by Colorado’s congressional delegates to secure the money.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, in announcing his agency’s decision to distribute the funds, said a check is on its way to the state.
“I have worked for several years to ensure that royalty payments from the Anvil Points oil shale and research facility are returned to northwest Colorado. Secretary Zinke’s announcement during today’s Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing signals the end to a very long process . . . ” U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton , R-Cortez, said in a written statement. “This money rightfully belongs to northwest Colorado.”
The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reports that Anvil Points, near Rifle, was used starting decades ago to test ways to turn oil shale into a mineable energy resource and that its closure necessitated a large cleanup effort. The lease revenue was collected to pay for that remediation but was never used.
According to the newspaper, a bill now making its way through the Colorado legislature would split the millions in lease revenues between between Garfiled and Rio Blanco counties — each of which would get 40 percent of the funds — and Mesa and Moffat counties, which would get the rest.
The roughly $18 million represents “excess funding that was never needed for cleanup purposes and was not returned to the local communities,” according to a news release from three of Colorado’s federal lawmakers.
U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., said the money can be used by each of the four counties however they wish. His Democratic counterpart, U.S. Sen. Michal Bennet, said “Colorado communities waited far too long for the government to release these revenues.”