Phillip Yates
Citizen Telegram Correspondent

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July 25, 2008
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Politicos' letter asks to leave Roan out

Three members of Colorado's congressional delegation have asked the U.S. Department of the Interior to exclude lands on the Roan Plateau from an upcoming lease sale.

U.S Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., Rep. John Salazar, D-Manassas, and Rep. Mark Udall, D-Eldorado Springs, sent a letter to Secretary Dirk Kempthorne on Wednesday requesting the move because Colorado "will not receive any revenues from these leases until after" the Anvil Points Oil Shale Superfund site near Rulison is completed or certified.

If the secretaries of the U.S. Department of Energy and Department of Interior do not certify the cleanup process at the research station before the Aug. 14 lease sale or a legislative fix passes through Congress, the state will not immediately bank its share of the lease sale, according to the BLM.

By moving forward with the sale without either one of those two conditions being met, the agency would "deprive Colorado's Western Slope communities of funds that are rightfully theirs and that are necessary to mitigate impacts of a dramatic increase in oil and gas development activities during the last seven years," their letter said.

But the BLM expects certification of the cleanup at the Anvil Points station to occur before Aug. 14 and that Colorado should receive about half of the money generated from the sale, said Steven Hall, a spokesman for the BLM.

A recently filed lawsuit may block the lease sale from even occurring on Aug. 14. That suit alleges the agency failed to consider the long-term environmental affects of its drilling plan for the area.

The Bureau of Land Management is estimating that the Roan lease sale, which will auction off about 52,000 acres in the Roan Plateau Planning Area, will generate between $100 million and $300 million. Colorado should receive about half of whatever the sale generates.

If certification or a legislative fix doesn't come, money from the lease sale would instead go into a trust fund set up to pay for the cleanup of the research station. That fund currently has about $96 million, enough for the costs of the cleanup. The trust fund accumulates about $1 million to $2 million each month.

A 1997 federal law that transferred lands in the Roan Plateau Planning Area to BLM control stipulated that money generated from federal mineral leases or royalties in the area would go into the trust fund and would be targeted specifically for the cleanup of the station. No money would be returned to the state prior to certification of the station's cleanup.

Once the cleanup is certified, all money generated from current and future natural gas production in the Roan Plateau Planning Area would then be split between the federal government and Colorado.

In the letter, the Salazars and Udall also criticized the BLM's plan for drilling in the area, saying it should include phased leasing and have increased environmental protections. Those proposals were outlined by Gov. Bill Ritter and are in proposed legislation submitted to Congress by the three Democrats.

The three called on the Interior Department to "work with us to pursue a course of balanced and responsible development," their letter said.

Contact Phillip Yates: 384-9117

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The Post Independent Updated Jul 25, 2008 11:11AM Published Jul 25, 2008 11:11AM Copyright 2008 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.