Western Slope celebrating the return of Anvil Points millions

Author: Joey Bunch - April 7, 2018 - Updated: April 23, 2018

BernhardtSen. Cory Gardner, center, and U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, at his left, participate in a teleconference in April in Grand Junction with Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt. (Photo courtesy of Sen. Cory Gardner’s Office)

Sen. Cory Gardner didn’t have a sleigh or a red coat, that we know of, but it was Christmas in April Friday in Grand Junction, as Gardner touted millions of dollars in government money for Garfield, Rio Blanco, Moffat and Mesa counties.

The $18 million is left over from the oil and gas leases revenue that was siphoned off to clean up the former Anvil Points oil shale research site in Garfield County. The money was collected through 2008 from oil and gas development on the Roan Plateau.

Local governments have been waiting on the refund ever since.

And it took a save from the statehouse to make sure the four northwest Colorado counties got to keep all of it. Previously, the money would have been dispersed statewide, but state Rep. Bob Rankin, R- Carbondale, pushed through House Bill 1249 to ensure all the money goes to the four counties where it was collected.

The bill was signed by the governor on March 22.

Garfield and Rio Blanco counties will get 40 percent each. Mesa and Moffat counties each get 10 percent. The money can be spent by local governments, school districts and the Colorado Water Conservation Board on local projects.

Gardner, Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Denver, and Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, worked to get the Department of Interior to pay up.

“I have worked to ensure this money would be returned to Colorado for years, and I was excited to celebrate this success with our community on the Western Slope today,” Gardner said in a statement.

He said he appreciated Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt for being cooperative.

The Colorado lawmakers tried through an amendment two years ago to force the Obama administration to return the oil-and-gas money. Last year Gardner and Bennet wrote Zinke urging him to help out.

Last month their administrative wish was granted.

Bennet and Tipton were in Grand Junction last weekend talking about Anvil Points at Club 20’s annual spring meeting. The money was welcome news to communities that have seen their severance tax revenues decline for years.

When Bennet brought up Anvil Points, a ballroom crowd broke into applause last Saturday.

He talked about the years of work in Washington, crediting Gardner and Tipton in partnership with him.

“I think the very first briefing I ever had as a senator had the words Anvil Points in it, so I’m not crossing that off the list,” he said. “I know it’s not as much money as everyone wanted but I’m glad that it’s a fair amount of money.”

Bennet said that because of Rankin “the money is going to the right counties.”

Tipton spoke after Bennet at the Club 20 meeting.

“This has been a long struggle to be able to do that,” he said.

Tipton said leaders in Washington saw the mineral lease money as an earmark.

“I said, ‘This isn’t an earmark, it’s their money,” he told the civic and business leaders in Club 20. “‘It needs to go back to these counties.’ Fortunately, working with David Bernhardt and Secretary Zinke, this was a collaborative effort.”

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.