Oil Companies Enduring Hardships to the tune of $10B

The Minerals Management Service within the Interior Department is supposed to charge oil companies for oil drilling on federal lands.  But according to an article in the New York Times this morning, the MMS didn’t know how to use an Excel spreadsheet to calculate the royalties.  In fact,  

“senior officials decided that it would impose a “hardship” on oil companies to demand that they calculate the back interest they owed after having been caught underpaying.” 

When asked about this matter by investigators, the agency’s associate director, Lucy Querques Denett, responded, “How do you define hardship, just because they have a lot of money?”  

What’s more, the auditors that discovered this had to take the unusual step of filing their own lawsuits against the oil companies under the False Claims Act, a law that allows private citizens to sue companies that have cheated the government, because senior officials had blocked them from recovering money from more than two dozen companies that underpaid royalties. 

As the fiscal year draws to a close and Congress and the President wrangle over appropriations for next year (including healthcare for children which Bush promises to veto), it’s interesting to see that our government doesn’t want to impose undue hardships on oil companies drilling on our land.

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