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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 - http://www.ost.doi.gov

Related Stories:
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)
GAO to investigate royalty collection at DOI (11/02)
DOI drops claim to millions in royalties from Chevron (10/31)
New Standard: Oil giant tries to cheat tribes of money (10/11)
Interior won't seek to recover billions in royalties (9/22)
Auditors say DOI suppressed royalty collection (9/21)
Editorial: 'Anything goes' at Interior Department (9/18)
Interior comes under fire for royalty giveaway (9/15)
Norton shielded Griles despite ethics probe (9/15)
House committee to consider DOI 'irresponsibility' (9/12)
MMS reduces role of tribal-state royalty panel (9/12)
DOI accused of hindering probe into oil and gas royalties (08/04)
Accounting firm defends social relations with OST (7/27)
OST contract tied to favors to top officials (7/25)
OST officials awarded $6.6M contract to friends (7/24)
Tribes, states weigh lawsuits against oil companies (5/8)
Norton denies fraud or major problem with trust (3/29)
GAO report warns of billions in lost oil, gas royalties (3/29)
Tribes, states object to Interior's lack of audits (03/01)
Pombo starts investigation of DOI royalty program (2/16)
Bush, Democrats oppose $7B royalty giveaway (2/15)
Interior to give away $7B in oil and gas royalties (2/14)
Oil companies fall behind on royalty payments (2/10)
DOI allows underpayment of natural gas royalties (01/24)
Editorial: Interior's endless charade on Indian trust (06/10)
OST fares no better under Ross Swimmer's leadership (6/7)
Bush administration won't give up fight on Cobell (03/18)
McCain weighs GAO probe of Indian trust debacle (03/10)
Norton won't testify on trust fund retaliation (2/28)
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Swimmer admits some Navajo appraisals too low (12/13)
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Lamberth critical of Norton's 'bad faith' on trust fund (10/25)
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Navajo landowners question BIA agreement with company (10/21)
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