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Colorado Senators Try to Recoup $17M in Royalties

Two Colorado Democrats have introduced federal legislation to fix what they say is an oversight in existing law that has deprived the state of about $17 million in royalties associated with oil and natural gas drilling on the Anvil Points Naval Oil Shale Reserve in central Colorado.

The bill, sponsored by Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, addresses a 1997 law that transferred the oil shale reserve land from the Department of Energy to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), with the understanding that part of the revenues would be set aside to pay for cleanup of Anvil Points while the remainder of the royalties would be split evenly between the state and the federal government.

But Colorado never got its share of the money, Udall and Bennet said. The federal government a year ago certified that $35.6 million in revenues had been generated above the total cost of the cleanup of the oil shale reserve. Half of that money -- or about $17 million -- should have gone to Colorado but didn't due to an oversight in the existing law, they said.

Udall and Bennet said their bill would fix the law and ensure that the money is sent to the Colorado counties of Mesa, Rio Blanco, Garfield and Moffat to address impacts related to drilling on the Anvil Points reserve.

"I support oil and gas leasing on the Western Slope, but Colorado is due a portion of the revenues generated from leasing -- revenue that can help communities address the impacts of development, roads and other infrastructure," Udall said.

"We can't allow the federal government to pad its coffers with money that rightfully belongs to these Western Slope communities," said Bennet. "Natural gas and oil are an important part of the regional economy...but we also need to be sure that as development proceeds, the communities most affected by development get the fair share of what's rightfully theirs."

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