Garfield County to benefit from release of Anvil Points funds | PostIndependent.com

Garfield County to benefit from release of Anvil Points funds

April Clark Post Independent Garfield County commisioner candidate Mike Samson waits for election results while attending the Republican election party in Glenwood Springs Tuesday night.

Garfield County will be among the beneficiaries of a long-disputed $18 million payment from the U.S. Interior Department related to oil and gas development on the Roan Plateau within the federal Anvil Points site northwest of Rifle.

The money comes from natural gas lease revenues that were collected a decade ago to clean up the former oil shale research site, and has been held in reserve by the federal government.

"This money is excess funding that was never needed for cleanup purposes and was not returned to the local communities," according to a bipartisan statement issued Tuesday by Congressman Scott Tipton and U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, both Republicans, and Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet.

The announcement was made Tuesday by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing.

Ultimately, the money is to be distributed to Garfield, Rio Blanco, Moffat and Mesa counties. But that process still requires state legislation and a signature from Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Garfield County Commissioner Mike Samson recently testified before the state's Joint Budget Committee in favor of the bill that would ensure the money comes to the counties where it was generated. The bill passed the committee 13-0, and Hickenlooper has said he supports the measure.

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"We are glad Gov. Hickenlooper is behind us on this," Samson said. "I've been working on this now for almost 10 years, and that's money that should have come to the county years and years ago."

Garfield County's 40 percent share of the funds, or approximately $6.8 million, will likely go to the separate Garfield Federal Mineral Lease District, which makes grants to governmental entities within the county through a twice-a-year grant process.

Under the agreement, Rio Blanco County would also receive 40 percent of the funds, and Mesa and Moffat counties would receive 10 percent each.

"When we finally get this, we need to have a party, because it's been a long, hard battle," said Samson, who also sits on the Garfield FMLD board.

Tipton, who represents Colorado's 3rd Congressional District, has worked for several years to ensure that the Anvil Points royalty payments are returned to northwest Colorado.

"This signals the end to a very long process, and I could not be more thrilled," Tipton said in the statement. "This money rightfully belongs to northwest Colorado."

"This is their money ­— not the federal government's," added Sen. Gardner in the joint statement. "Each county can now use this funding for how they think is best for their region."

Sen. Bennet said the local counties have been waiting for too long to receive the long-due funding.

"I've been working toward this outcome since arriving in the Senate in 2009," Bennet said. "Now that Secretary Zinke said 'the check is in the mail,' millions of dollars can be put to use by communities on the Western Slope."