Allard, Salazar fighting effort to cut state’s mineral revenues | SummitDaily.com

Allard, Salazar fighting effort to cut state’s mineral revenues

PHILLIP YATES
Garfield County correspondent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Colorado’s two U.S. senators both plan to fight language

tucked into a spending bill passed by the Senate Tuesday night that is

expected to reduce states’ revenues from federal onshore mineral leasing.

The provision was apparently inserted into the $555 billion spending package

and includes language that would reduce the current 50-50 split the states

share from federal mineral leasing ” derived from energy and mineral

extraction on federal lands ” by 2 percent. The reduction means states would

get 48 percent of the proceeds, and the federal government 52 percent.

Colorado collected $122.8 million in mineral lease payments in the

government’s 2007 fiscal year, according to the Minerals Management Service,

the federal agency that collects, audits and disburses revenues from mineral

leases on federal and American Indian lands.

Garfield County Commissioner Larry McCown was incredulous that Congress

would work to reduce the revenue split in favor of the federal government

against the states.

McCown has previously said mineral lease revenues coming back to the area

are too low, especially since the county generated more than $125 million in

mineral lease revenues last year. Garfield County received $619,185 in

federal mineral lease distributions last year.

The spending bill includes $70 billion more for military operations in Iraq

and Afghanistan and funding for 14 Cabinet agencies. It is now headed to

President Bush, who is expected to sign it.

“The senator was furious,” said Steve Wymer, a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Wayne

Allard, R-Colo., recalling Allard’s reaction to the proposed reduction.

“This is horrible for Colorado. The senator is very concerned about this and

is looking into doing what he can do to address the situation immediately.”

Wymer said he and Allard found out about the inserted language at the last

moment Tuesday night.

Stephanie Valencia, a spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., said

Salazar also opposes the provision. She said the revenue-sharing reduction

provision appears to have been inserted by U.S. House of Representative

members.

“The senator is going to continue to work and air his concerns about it and

work to repeal it,” Valencia said.

Valencia said Salazar, along with Sens. Jeff Bingman, D-N.M., Pete Domenci,

R-N.M., and Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., sent a letter in June to the senators who

head the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies subcommittee, opposing

the 2 percent reduction. The reduction was in President Bush’s 2008 budget

that his administration sent to Congress earlier this year.

The senators, in their letter, say Bush’s budget attempted to justify the

reduction by saying it was needed to defray “administrative cost incurred in

the management of onshore leasing activities.” A similar reduction, which

was implemented in 1991 but repealed in 2000, led to “a loss of $250 million

from states’ revenues,” according to the letter.

“Withdrawal of this revenue through enactment of this proposal would have

substantial unnecessary negative impacts for many Western States,” the

letter said.

The letter ended by expressing the hope that Interior, Environment and

Related Agencies subcommittee chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and

committee ranking member Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, would decline to insert

the proposal into an appropriations bill. But it was still included in the

bill when the Senate considered it Tuesday.

“I can’t imagine why they would have done it,” said McCown, adding that

about 50 percent of the revenue the state receives from its share of mineral

leases goes to school funding. “The logic doesn’t make any sense. I don’t

understand it.”

Contact Phillip Yates: 384-9117, pyates@postindependent.com


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