Congress is considering a bill called the POWER Counties Act that would re-direct funds back to mineral-producing counties. The reclamation fund within the Mineral Leasing Act typically supports water projects, like dams, but now has an excess of money thanks to increased mineral leasing.
The reclamation fund receives 40-percent of monies deposited through power generation, hydropower, mineral leasing, sales, rentals, and more. The remainder goes to states, the U.S. Treasury, and administrative fees. The POWER Counties Act wants to redirect 20-percent of that to county services like schools and roads. The bill was introduced by an Ohio Congressman in September of last year.
Between 2008 and 2012, 79-percent of the deposits into the fund came from mineral royalties and Wyoming is the largest contributor. But Campbell County Commissioner Mark Christensen said the state only gets back about 2-percent. He spoke in front a Congressional sub-committee.
"While we do receive PILT payments, the $740,000 contributes little to the services we’re required to deliver to federal lands. As proposed, the POWER Counties Act would send needed funds to Campbell County to utilize in our road and bridge department," Christensen said.
He added that particulates of dust from production activity can hurt mining processes. But Christensen is also interested in expanding how this money could be used.
"It's imperative that we proactively address economic development and look for options to retrain our workforce. Unfortunately, money for these activities is mostly non-existent," he said.
If passed, any mineral-producing county would benefit from the extra funds. Counties across Wyoming are also missing out on millions in mineral property taxes due to bankruptcies. The bill is still in its early stages.