Cobell settlement deadline extended again

A federal judge extended the time Congress has to approve the multi-billion dollar settlement in the Cobell class action lawsuit. The settlement is intended to compensate American Indians for royalties they were cheated out of for decades for lands they leased to energy and agricultural operators.

It’s the third time since the $3.4 billion settlement was reached in December the judge has agreed to give more time. U.S. District Judge James Robertson said, however, he wanted the federal government to complete the process which, if and when Congress passes the required legislation to make the settlement official.

If Congress does not confirm the settlement by mid-May, Robertson said, he will order Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and other top officials to appear before him to explain why.

The proposed settlement, which would end a 14-year legal case, calls for the Interior Department to distribute $1.4 billion to more than 300,000 Indian tribal citizens across nearly all 50 states.

The government also would also have to spend $2 billion to buy back and consolidate tribal land broken up in previous generations and create a $60 million Indian Education Scholarship fund.

Most lawsuit participants would receive at least $1,500, and many would receive considerably more.

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