Senators’ Roan feud leaves Anvil Points measure in limbo

Dennis WebbGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

RULISON – U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard is upset that fellow Colorado senator Ken Salazar wants to make his support for freeing up revenues from existing Roan Plateau gas leases contingent on Allard backing a moratorium on future leasing there.Salazar, a Democrat, has refused so far to co-sponsor the Republican Allard’s provision that would allow for the release of millions of dollars in revenues from leases back to Colorado. A 1997 law transferring the Roan Plateau near Rifle to Bureau of Land Management authority barred sharing of Roan gas lease revenues with the state until the federal government is fully reimbursed for cleanup of the Anvil Points oil shale research site north of Rulison.Allard spokesman Steve Wymer said Salazar is holding his support for the Anvil Points measure hostage, demanding that Allard support moratoriums on gas leasing on the Roan Plateau and on the process leading to commercial oil shale leasing in the region.”He’s endangering a really critical piece of legislation,” Wymer said of Salazar.Wymer said Allard won’t give in to Salazar’s demands to support the moratoriums.That’s precisely the problem, in the view of Salazar’s camp. Salazar spokesman Cody Wertz confirmed that the Anvil Points measure has become part of the negotiations between the two senators on future gas leasing on the Roan and oil shale development. But he said Allard has been pushing for Salazar’s support on the Anvil Points provision, without being willing to give anything in return.”We’re going to give you something, let’s get something. It may not be quite equal but let’s get something for the local communities,” he said.Salazar wants drilling rigs kept off the top of the Roan Plateau, saying he’s responding to demands from hunters, environmentalists and others who want the plateau top protected from gas development. A House version of an energy bill would have barred drilling on top but a Senate version contained no such stipulation, and Senate Republican leaders refused to agree to it during negotiations to reconcile the two bills.Wertz said Salazar remains interested in supporting Allard’s Anvil Points provision, and there’s no hurry to get it through Congress. It wouldn’t take effect for three years, until after cleanup of the research site is complete, Wertz said.In October, Allard and Salazar wrote to Energy Secretary Samuel L. Bodman and Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to seek an update on the project’s status. A BLM spokesman said then that more than $82 million has been set aside for cleanup – probably much more than enough to do the job.A pile below the former Department of Energy site contains spent shale and other material, including arsenic and other heavy metals, from oil shale mining and processing. The pile is considered to be a threat to ground and surface water, including the Colorado River.Once the cleanup is complete, excess revenues would be split evenly between the federal and state governments, with some of the state funds coming back to local communities affected by energy development.The BLM says the revenues from existing leases are growing by $1 million to $2 million per month.Wyman said surplus revenues are needed by impacted communities, and Allard fears they could be raided for federal government uses.”If you have a trust fund, those things are vulnerable,” he said.The revenues come from four gas leases issued prior to the Roan Plateau’s transfer to the BLM. The BLM since has worked on a management plan for the plateau and decided to allow drilling on top, but leases have not yet been issued. Salazar hopes to include a one-year moratorium on leases in an Interior Department appropriations bill. Allard’s Anvil Points provision is in that bill.Contact Dennis Webb: 384-9119dwebb@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO

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