Roan fight not over for Salazar brothers |

Roan fight not over for Salazar brothers

Phillip Yates
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

RIFLE, Colo. ” Less than a week after the Bureau of Land Management issued its second management decision for the Roan Plateau, two members of Colorado’s congressional delegation said they will try to push for legislative protections of the area.

The future of the Roan Plateau was the focus of many questions for U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., and Rep. John Salazar, D-Manassa, during an informal town hall meeting in Rifle on Tuesday.

The brothers traveled to Rifle after stopping in Steamboat Springs to meet with local elected officials and in Meeker for a discussion about energy issues with Rio Blanco residents and a visit of the Colowyo mine.

The brothers are currently working on legislation that incorporates almost all of the proposals put forward by Gov. Bill Ritter to help protect the gas-rich area. Those proposals included increasing the acreage of areas of critical environmental concern and pushing phased leasing for the area. No bill has been submitted yet, however.

Last week, the Bureau of Land Management ignored most of the governor’s proposals for drilling in the area ” a move many environmentalists and sportsmen criticized.

“That upset me quite a bit,” John Salazar said. “I can assure you the fight is not over.”

John Salazar said he and his brother are trying to strike a balance and trying to figure out how we can best protect this area for our future generations.

“That is the problem and the issue we have in Congress is trying to figure out where that balance is,” John Salazar said. “Right now the biggest obstacle we have is the White House. I think we have numbers in the [U.S House of Representatives] to push the legislation forward.”

John Salazar said Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has been very supportive of the Salazars’ push for Roan legislation. John Salazar said he and his brother are trying to find a “vehicle” in the House to move their proposed Roan legislation forward. John Salazar said that any standalone Roan bill would “not go anywhere.”

During the Rifle visit, Ken Salazar highlighted many of his legislative goals, which include returning money in the Anvil Points oil shale trust fund to Rio Blanco and Garfield counties and restoring the sharing of federal mineral revenues between states and the federal government back to its traditional 50-50 spilt.

Few people at the Rifle meeting on Tuesday seem opposed to the Salazars’ positions.

In Ken Salazar’s opening remarks, he said the residents of Rifle are sitting in the middle of “ground zero” of an energy boom. He then cited the large number of drilling permits being issued for natural gas wells in Garfield County. In 2007, 44 percent of the drilling permits issued in the state were for drilling in the county.

“That tells you the kind of pressure you are facing in Garfield County,” Ken Salazar said.

Ken Salazar and John Salazar have also submitted legislation to Congress that would immediately send money from the Anvil Points oil shale trust fund ” which has about $86.5 million in it ” to Garfield and Rio Blanco counties. John Salazar said the issue is not as “controversial as people see it.”

About $20 million of that fund is needed to clean the Anvil Points research station near Rulison ” a process that is expected to start in June. The Salazars’ legislation calls for the remaining money, which has to be split with the federal government, to go back to Rio Blanco and Garfield counties.

However, John Salazar said the federal officials are trying to get their hands on the surplus money in the trust fund.

Rifle Mayor Keith Lambert said he wanted to thank the Salazars for trying to return the money to “Colorado and back to the counties of origin.”