Sen. Salazar joins fight against cutting mineral lease revenues to states | AspenTimes.com

Sen. Salazar joins fight against cutting mineral lease revenues to states

Phillip Yates
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., has joined a bipartisan group urging the Bush administration to back away from a plan that reduces funding states receive from federal mineral leasing.

In a letter to U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne and Office of Management and Budget director Jim Nussle, a group of Republicans and Democrats in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate said they strongly opposed the reduction.

“This appropriation does not serve the taxpayers who fund the government nor does it serve the states who allow for energy production to happen within their borders,” the group wrote.

Last month, 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.

The 2 percent taken away from states will be used for “administrative priorities,” according to a statement from Salazar. Had the provision been in place last year, Colorado would have lost about $2.45 million, the statement said.

Earlier this month, Salazar, along with U.S. Reps. John Salazar, D-Manassa, and Rep. Mark Udall, D-Eldorado Springs, said they would introduce legislation that would reverse the federal mineral leasing change. Also included in their proposed legislation is language that would require the federal government to follow Gov. Bill Ritter’s recommendations for the Roan Plateau near Rifle, which include doubling the lands designated for environmental protection and implementing phased leasing for federal mineral leases on the Roan.

The legislation proposed by the Salazars and Udall would also transfer an estimated $80 million in the Anvil Points oil shale trust fund back to Colorado and the Western Slope. About $20 million is needed to clean up the former Anvil Points oil shale research site north of Rulison. The proposed legislation would direct $40 million in “spillover funds” to water and land conservation efforts and roads impacted by oil and gas development in Garfield and Rio Blanco counties, according to the Salazars.

The legislation proposed by the Salazars and Udall is expected to be introduced in coming weeks, according to Salazar’s statement.


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