For Immediate Release
August 27, 2013
Utah Attorney General John Swallow today said the U.S. Department of the Interior made the right decision to refund more than $6 million in oil and gas royalties to the state that had been withheld under sequestration. The decision comes after Swallow and nine other attorneys general notified the Department of Interior that withholding the funds violated a legal and historical agreement.
“It is absolutely clear these royalties belong to Utah and should never have been kept by the federal government in the first place,” says Swallow. “The sequester can be used for federal funds but simply cannot be used to grab money that rightfully belongs to the states.”
On August 2, members of the Conference of Western Attorneys General sent a letter to President Obama and cabinet members demanding the royalties be forwarded to the states. “Reducing the federal budget is a laudable and necessary goal,” states the letter. “But it cannot be achieved on the back of states and with disregard for the principles of federalism.”
On Tuesday, Department of Interior Director Gregory Gould sent letters to Utah Treasurer Richard Ellis and other state treasurers stating the funds would be disbursed. As of July 31, the total royalties sequestered from Utah under the Mineral Leasing Act totaled $6,173,420. Gould says his department will move as quickly as possible to start sending the funds at the beginning of the next fiscal year, which starts in October.
Copies of the letter and the response are available here