Colorado U.S. Sens. Wayne Allard and Ken Salazar this week reached a compromise of sorts for the Roan Plateau region, introducing federal legislation that would assist four northwestern counties most affected by the booming natural gas industry.

The senators, along with Colorado Rep. John Salazar, introduced measures that would allow a trust fund set-aside to clean up a federal Superfund site on the Roan Plateau; the set-aside would be split 50-50 by federal officials and the four counties. None of the money would be directly given to the state. The bill ensures the clean-up of the former Anvil Points facility, which would be paid for entirely from the federal share of the existing fund.

“Mineral leasing revenues provide a strong economic stream for communities across Colorado’s West Slope and the entire American West,” said Democratic Sen. Salazar. “It only makes sense that the very communities where these resources are extracted will get to benefit from the revenues they help generate.”

The legislation would jointly split an estimated $88 million that has accumulated to clean up the Anvil Points Superfund site on the former Naval Oil Shale Reserve, which is on the Roan Plateau. Money for the trust has been generated by royalties on oil and gas production in the region. The Anvil Points trust fund, which was enacted under the Transfer Act (Public Law 105-85), now exceeds the estimated cost of cleaning up the reserve. The Department of Interior’s (DOI) Bureau of Land Management, which is in control of cleaning up the site, estimates the clean-up will cost $23 million. Another $1.5 million accrues to the fund each month.

If the legislation is enacted, Garfield and Rio Blanco counties would receive about 40% of the funds, while Mesa and Moffat counties would receive 10% each. The counties — and municipalities and political subdivisions within the counties — could use the money they receive to mitigate the impacts of oil and gas development.

Allard, a Republican, noted that “$44 million may not seem like a lot of money to some people here in Washington, DC, but we know that in Colorado these funds will have a huge impact on our local communities.”

John Salazar, a Democrat whose congressional district includes most of the Western Slope, said the measure by all three legislators “sends a strong signal to our constituents in Garfield, Rio Blanco, Moffat and Mesa counties that help is on the way.”

The legislation faces opposition from the Bush administration. DOI Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said the federal law allows for Colorado to share in the Anvil Points trust fund only after the site is cleaned up and certified to be cleaned by federal officials.

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