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Tribes, states weigh lawsuits against oil companies

Frustrated with what they say are billions of dollars in lost royalties, tribal and state governments are weighing lawsuits against oil companies under the False Claims Act.

The Council of Energy Resource Tribes and the State and Tribal Royalty Audit Committee say they are being shortchanged billions by oil companies. They say the Bush administration is allowing the industry to underreport the amount and quality of oil and gas taken from tribal and public lands.

"We are convinced that there is serious underreporting of production and serious underpayment of royalties owed to the tribes," Roger Fragua, the deputy director of the Council of Energy Resource Tribes, told The Washington Post. "The federal government, at least in this administration, is not protecting our interests. So we are looking for ways to go after the companies ourselves."

Under the False Claims Act, the tribes and states can sue the energy companies directly without relying on the federal government. If the tribes and states win, or settle out of court, they are entitled to a share of the judgment award.

Get the Story:
Firms Harvesting Energy From Public Land May Owe U.S. (The Washington Post 5/7)

Draft Report:
Briefing on Oil and Gas Royalties (March 27, 2006)

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