Feds certify Anvil Points site in the nick of time | PostIndependent.com

Feds certify Anvil Points site in the nick of time

Phillip Yates
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

WASHINGTON ” The U.S. Departments of Interior and Energy have certified that there is enough money to cover the cleanup of the Anvil Points Oil Shale Superfund site near Rulison.

The move allows Colorado to receive about half of the $2.7 million in natural gas revenues that are generated each month from existing leases in the Roan Plateau Planning Area.

This certification also means that Colorado is expected to receive money from an Aug. 14 Bureau of Land Management lease sale of 55,200 acres on the Roan. The auctioning of lands in the area is expected to bring in about $100 million to $300 million, according to BLM estimates.

If certification of the Anvil Points Oil Shale Superfund site came after Aug. 14, Colorado would not have immediately received its share from the lease sale.

Thousands have filed protests over the Roan sale, with many arguing that the Bureau of Land Management ignored advice from Colorado’s leaders and wildlife managers concerning its development plan in the area.

The BLM has to resolve any protest from the Roan lease sale before Colorado can receive its share of the money, said Steven Hall, a spokesman for the BLM.

Stephen Allred, assistant secretary of the Interior Department, sent a letter to U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., on Friday telling him that certification of the Anvil Points Oil Shale Superfund site had come.

“The four or five hundred million dollars from these royalties over the next 20 years could fund many important needs for Western Slope communities and our state,” Allard said in a prepared statement.

Before certification, money from natural gas production in the area flowed into a trust fund that was set up to pay the costs of the cleanup of the Anvil Points research station.

That’s because 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.

The fund has now reached about $112 million. The $24 million for the total cost of the cleanup will come out of the fund. Another $39.4 million from it will have to go to the DOE for infrastructure the agency developed at the research station.

Since last year, Allard has been working to direct leftover money in that trust fund back into the areas affected by energy development, according to a statement released by Allard’s office.

U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., said certification was an important step because Colorado is now receiving its share of revenues, but that “the federal government is still trying to stiff Colorado on more than $50 million in the cleanup fund.”

“Those revenues should go to the Western Slope communities that are most affected by energy development,” Salazar said.

Allard sponsored a bill 18 months ago that would have resolved the issue surrounding the leftover money in the trust fund, but Salazar wouldn’t support it, said Steve Wymer, Allard’s spokesman.

Salazar didn’t support Allard’s original bill because it was tied to development of oil shale and the Roan Plateau, said Matt Lee-Ashley, the senator’s spokesman.

About five months later, Allard and Salazar agreed to introduce bi-partisan legislation that would split the balance in the trust fund evenly between the state and the federal government. The bulk of the cost of the cleanup and money reimbursed to the DOE would come out of the federal share.

Garfield and Rio Blanco counties would each receive 40 percent from the trust fund, while Moffat and Mesa counties would each receive 10 percent, according to the legislation.

Michael Amodeo, a spokesman for Salazar, said the senator is going to work to get the legislation pushed through Congress.

“It is a bi-partisan piece of legislation,” he said. “We are going to do all we can to get it passed.”

Wymer said Allard’s office was “begging Salazar” to support their legislative efforts to return money in the fund to Colorado since May of 2007.

“Now the chances of the (bi-partisan bill) passing are so slim,” said Wymer, noting that Congress is currently in recess, and that there only a few weeks left before members leave again to campaign for the November elections. “The reality is that we are a day late and $25 million short.”

Spokesmen for both Allard and Salazar have said the senators fear that federal officials will try to keep money left in trust fund now that certification has come through.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Contact Phillip Yates: 384-9117


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