New bill combats 52-48 split in mineral revenues
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Three members of Colorado’s congressional delegation have submitted legislation that would reverse a federal mineral leasing change that was hidden inside a spending bill last year.
Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., said legislation that he and Reps. John Salazar, D-Manassa, and Mark Udall, D-Eldorado Springs, submitted Wednesday will restore the traditional 50-50 split between the federal government and the states from revenue generated from federal mineral leasing activity.
“It is my hope that that legislation will receive significant support from both Democrats and Republicans,” said Ken Salazar, who is expecting White House opposition to the bill.
In December, language was slipped into a $555 billion appropriations bill that reduces the current share of revenues states receive from leases for energy and mineral extraction on federal lands by 2 percent. The reduction means states get 48 percent of the proceeds, and the federal government 52 percent.
Salazar, a Democrat, voted for the appropriations bill, while Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., did not.
The change has raised concerns in places such as Garfield County, which leads the state in natural gas drilling and relies on mineral lease revenues to help deal with the impacts.
The revenue-split change inserted into the appropriations bill was only for the 2008 fiscal year. However, President Bush’s budget for the government’s 2009 fiscal year, submitted to Congress Monday, suggested extending the provision by another year, something Salazar hopes to prevent.
“We will be moving forward with this legislation to make it a permanent fix,” Salazar said.
However, Allard said a legislative fix for the revenue split is not needed because appropriators can whack it out of the budget Bush has submitted to Congress. Still, he said he was glad the three lawmakers introduced it.
“It will be helpful because now they have taken a position against the (48-52) split,” Allard said. “If we can get similar efforts by Western Democrats other than in the state of Colorado I think we can get it changed.”
The 2 percent taken away from states will be used by the Department of Interior in administering the revenue and royalty sharing program with the states. Had the provision been in place last year, Colorado would have lost about $2.45 million.
“We know Colorado is the place that is one of the hottest areas in the United States of America with respect to oil and gas leasing,” Salazar said. “We need to make sure that we continue to fight for the fair share that Colorado should receive from activities relating to oil and gas development on federal lease lands.”
Salazar and Allard were part of a bipartisan group who signed a letter that was sent to U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne and Office of Management and Budget director Jim Nussle, saying they were opposed to revenue-split reduction.
The Salazars and Udall said last month they would introduce legislation that would reverse the federal mineral leasing change, along with proposals that would require the federal government to follow Gov. Bill Ritter’s recommendations for gas development on the Roan Plateau near Rifle and would transfer money in the Anvil
Points oil shale trust fund back to Colorado and the Western Slope. Some of the
money is to be used to clean up a former federal oil shale research site near Rulison.
Salazar said the legislation submitted on Wednesday to change the federal mineral leasing split does not call for legislating his Anvil Points proposal or Ritter’s plan for the Roan into law.
“It is important that it be a stand-alone bill. I arrived at that conclusion because it is going to take a significant number of senators to get this passed,” Salazar said. “It is a concern for all senators, where you have significant mineral leasing on public lands. That means most of the Western senators would have a concern about this.”
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UPDATE 5:27 p.m. — Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon has reopened in both directions Saturday evening after a safety closure due to a flash flood warning. There were no reported mud/debris slides.