Secretary of the Interior signed a series of energy-related orders at the main Department of the Interior building in Washington, D.C., on March 29, 2017. Photo: U.S. DOI

Secretary Zinke seeks tribal representatives for royalty committee

Secretary Ryan Zinke is seeking nominations for a new royalty policy committee at the Department of the Interior.

The committee will consist of 28 tribal, federal, state and other representatives. They will provide advice to Zinke on issues affecting mineral policy and leasing on Indian and federal lands.

"We’ll make sure the tribes, as we should, are represented," Zinke said on a conference call on Wednesday, when he signed a secretarial order to establish the committee.

According to a forthcoming Federal Register notice, up to four members will represent tribes that are engaged in energy development on their lands. Another six members will represent "stakeholders in federal and Indian royalty policy," the document states.

Other members will be drawn from Interior and will include the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs and the director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Representatives of states as well as "academia and public interest groups" will be appointed to the committee.

"I hereby certify that the Royalty Policy Committee is necessary, is in the public interest, and is established under the authority of the Secretary of the Interior, in support of greater transparency in creating royalty and leasing policy for mineral production on federal and tribal lands," Zinke wrote in the notice, which will be published in the Federal Register on Monday.

Zinke sought to re-establish the committee when he was a member of Congress. It had basically gone dormant during the Obama administration, after its charter expired in 2012.

The panel was also known as the State and Tribal Royalty Audit Committee and tribes viewed it as another way to provide input and engage in oversight of decisions affecting their mineral estates. In some cases, tribes were able to address underpayment issues on their lands because they had access to federal reports and audits.

Nominations for the new committee are due within 15 days of the publication of the notice on Monday.

Forthcoming Federal Register Notice:
Royalty Policy Committee Establishment; Request for Nominations (To Be Published April 3, 2017)

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