Udall Offers Alternative Proposal To Acquire Rocky Flats Mineral Rights
Says Senate proposal falls short, compromises wildlife refuge
Washington, DC - Congressman Mark Udall (D-Eldorado Springs) today offered an alternative solution to acquire the privately held mineral rights underlying Rocky Flats. Acquiring these mineral rights is a key step in turning the former nuclear weapons production site into a wildlife refuge after cleanup and closure in 2006.
"The amendment that Senators Allard and Salazar are proposing is a good start but I don't think it fully solves the problem, and it could shrink the boundaries of the wildlife refuge. My proposal keeps the refuge intact while giving the Department of Energy more time to resolve the mineral rights issues and does not arbitrarily limit the dollar amount that could be spent to buy these rights from willing sellers. We need to complete the process of turning over the site to the Fish and Wildlife Service and we won't be able to do that if we tie the agency's hands," said Udall, who was the House sponsor of the bill that created the wildlife refuge.
Earlier this week, Colorado Senators Wayne Allard and Ken Salazar reached an agreement on an amendment to a defense spending bill which provides a one-year funding authorization of $10 million to acquire the mineral rights. The amendment requires the State of Colorado to relinquish the right to claim more than $10 million for natural resource damages from past activity. Furthermore, their amendment would change the law establishing the Rocky Flats wildlife refuge by moving the refuge boundaries to cut out the lands where the minerals are located unless and until the minerals are mined or acquired.
On July 25, the Rocky Flats Coalition of Local Governments sent a letter to Senator Allard outlining concerns and issues that should be addressed or avoided in any such approach.
Udall's proposal would authorize the DOE to purchase minerals located within the current boundaries of Rocky Flats and provide that amounts DOE spends for those purchases will count against any claim the state may bring in the future based on damages to natural resources from past pollution at Rocky Flats. The proposal also would provide that once minerals are acquired, there will be no mining in areas where DOE has acquired them.
Udall said he is confident a viable solution that the local communities can support can be reached before the defense bill is completed. "I think the senators and I can keep faith with the wildlife refuge legislation and come up with a framework that maintains the integrity of the refuge boundaries and gives the federal agencies the appropriate tools to buy the rights."