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Oil companies fall behind on royalty payments

More than three dozen oil companies fell behind on nearly $500 million in royalty payments for drilling on public lands, The New York Times reports.

Interior Department regulations allow the companies to claim "incentives" when the price for oil stays below a certain "threshold." But some of the companies sought about $493 million in "royalty relief" in 2004 even though the prices for oil and gas were at record levels.

Interior was able to reclaim most of the payments from the companies but $60 million remains in dispute, The Times said. Some of the companies don't think they owe the money.

The Times previously reported that the Bush administration's lax oversight of the oil and gas industry has resulted in a loss of $700 million in natural gas royalties because Interior regulations allow energy companies to understate their sale prices for gas.

At the budget rollout this past Monday, Interior Secretary Gale Norton said the story was riddled with inaccuracies.

Get the Story:
Oil Giants Fell Behind on Fees (The New York Times 2/10)

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