New Mexico Apache tribe wins natural gas appeal

A federal appellate court in Washington, D.C., has ruled in favor of the Jicarilla Apache Nation located in northern New Mexico in a dispute over natural gas royalties dating from more than 20 years ago.

The decision could mean millions of dollars for the tribe.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled last week the U.S. Department of Interior improperly relied on regulations that went into effect after the 1984-1988 period in question.
The judges returned the case to the lower federal disctrict court with instructions to send it back to the agency to fix how it calculated natural gas royalties.

“We have waited long enough for our rights to be protected and now look forward to working with the Interior Department to swiftly conclude this matter,” Jicarilla President Levi Pesata said in a news release.
The judges said the tribe “likely will receive additional revenue” if Interior reverses course on computing royalties.

The Jicarilla Tribe, with more than 4,000 citizens, is a large natural gas producer and receives royalty payments for leases for production on its 1 million acres of trust land.

Companies pay royalties equal to either one-eighth or one-sixth of the value of the gas.

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