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September 03, 2013 7:56 am

Restoring mineral money the right step for states

Written by Tessa Schweigert

A deal is a deal.
That’s why we’re glad to see the federal government has backed off an ill-advised plan to cut millions of dollars owed to states like Wyoming through the Mineral Leasing Act.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Interior announced plans to chop dozens of states’ share of mineral leasing payments as part of automatic spending cuts.
The Cowboy State had the most at stake, standing to lose an estimated $53 million this year, according to The Associated Press. While losses were minimal for some states, others — including Montana, North Dakota and Colorado — also stood to lose millions of dollars.
“The federal government took money that doesn’t belong to it and used the sequester as an excuse,” Daniel Head, a spokesman for Sen. Mike Enzi, said in a statement last spring. “States are guaranteed a share of the billions of dollars in revenue generated from energy production on federal lands, as they bear most of the costs associated with mineral development.”
Soon after the roughly 5 percent cuts were announced last spring, a legal review began. Thankfully, that review of the Minerals Leasing Act recently determined the money must be paid to Wyoming and 34 other states.
If all goes as planned, an estimated $110 million in mineral leasing payments will be restored to states sometime after the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.
We’re glad to hear states will receive the money that rightfully belongs to them, and hope this decision stands for future years. As Gov. Matt Mead’s office indicated, Wyoming is waiting to hear what might happen down the road.
We applaud Wyoming lawmakers and others for their efforts to restore money owed to states.
Wyoming has a long history with the Mineral Leasing Act, enacted by Congress in 1920. The law came about because of a dispute in central Wyoming at the Salt Creek Oil Field, according to Samuel Western, who wrote about the act for the Wyoming State Historical Society. Western said the law changed Wyoming’s economic destiny.
For decades, Wyoming has received millions of dollars through royalties and payments from companies that extract oil and gas from federal land in the Cowboy State.
Yes, it is federal land, but Wyoming communities bear the brunt of the impacts of oil and gas extraction. If our state must deal with the negatives of energy development at times, we should receive the perks as well.

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