Editorial: Cleaning up the royalty mess at Interior

"Randall Luthi has his work cut out for him.

Luthi, an attorney and former speaker of the Wyoming House of Representatives, had been deputy director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since February. But two months ago, he was named to head up the nation's Minerals Management Service, replacing another Wyomingite, Johnnie Burton, who retired in May. She had been drawing intense fire from Congress, watchdog groups and the Interior Department's inspector general because of problems with the agency's oil and gas leasing program.

This Interior Department service collects billions of dollars a year from oil and gas companies that drill on federal land. Burton took over the agency in 2002 and during her tenure faced heavy criticism from Congress over a royalty controversy involving faulty but legal Gulf of Mexico leases signed during the late 1990s that could cost the federal treasury billions in lost revenue. Critics said she didn't do enough to recover the money from these poorly conceived, Clinton-era deals that had been ignored.

Luthi has vowed to make changes in the agency, and it appears they are long overdue. An investigative report released last week gives him plenty of material to consider.

Poor communication. Cozy relationships with clients. Ethical lapses. Process failures. Billions of dollars lost.

This sounds like a federal agency in need of an extreme makeover. Good luck, Director Luthi."

Get the Story:
Gazette Opinion: Troubled agency needs makeover (The Billings Gazette 10/2)

Inspector General Report:
Minerals Management Service: False Claim Allegations (September 2006)

Another Inspector General Report:
Indian Trust Investigative Review (July 2007)

Relevant Links:
Indian Trust: Cobell v. Kempthorne - http://www.indiantrust.com

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