NM tribe wins gas appeal

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Ruling could mean millions of dollars for the Jicarilla Apaches

By Sue M. Holmes

ALBUQUERQUE  — An appellate court in Washington, D.C., has ruled in favor of northern New Mexico’s Jicarilla Apache Nation 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 reversed part of a federal court summary judgment in favor of the department. They returned the case to that 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.

Attorney Steven Gordon of Washington, D.C., who represented the tribe in the appeal, said it’s his understanding the royalties plus

interest would total about $6 million.

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