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Supreme Court rules for DOI in royalty collection case
Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday unanimously upheld the Interior Department's efforts to collect royalties from oil and gas companies.

In the 7-0 decision, the court said the Minerals Management Service is not time-barred in seeking back payments for drilling on federal land. The companies had claimed the government was restricted by a six-year statute of limitations.

But the justices said the limitation only applies to court proceedings, not to administrative proceedings within DOI. The companies must pay hundreds of millions of dollars more as a result.

Had the court accepted the oil companies' arguments, Justice Samuel A. Alito said it would have created "disharmony" in the federal government's trust responsibilities to tribes and individual Indians. Imposing the limitation would prevent Interior from "aggressively" carrying out its fiduciary duties, the opinion stated.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. did not participate in the ruling. He had heard the case when he was on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Get the Story:
Court Rules Against Oil and Gas Industry (AP 12/11)
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Court Decision in BP Amoco v. Burton:
Syllabus | Opinion

Inspector General Report:
Minerals Management Service's Compliance Review Process (December 2006)

GAO Letter:
Suggested Areas for Oversight for the 110th Congress (November 17, 2006)

Inspector General Testimony:
Devaney Interior Department: A Culture of Managerial Irresponsibility and Lack of Accountability? (September 2006)

Inspector General Report:
Allegations Concerning Senior Officials of the Office of Special Trustee for American Indians (May 2005)

Relevant Links:
Government Accountability Office:
Office of Special Trustee -

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Investigation finds major problems with royalties (12/7)
Fired DOI auditor recovered tribal royalties (12/4)
More oversight of oil and gas royalties sought (11/29)
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