Senator Michael Bennet sent a letter to Interior secretary Ryan Zinke this week, asking that millions of dollars in unpaid royalties be returned to Northwest Colorado. At issue is $76 million in natural gas drilling royalties which were being held for clean up and restoration of the Naval Oil Shale Reserve. However, according to the letter, the Interior department certified that in 2008, the money was no longer needed for this purpose. Bennet believes the money has been owed to the counties for far too long, saying something must be done to resolve the issue. In the letter, Bennet asks for the money to be distributed directly to the affected counties, which include Garfield, Mesa, Moffat and Rio Blanco. If this is not possible, Bennet says he plans to introduce legislation to ensure the funds are returned. Direct payment to the counties would prohibit the money from going to the state, where a portion of the money could be re-allocated. If the money is returned, Garfield and Rio Blanco counties would each receive 40%, while Mesa and Moffat counties would both get 10%. This means Moffat County would receive $7.6 million, while Rio Blanco County would get over $30 million. A copy of Bennet’s letter is available here.