Tribes sue BIA on uncollected revenues from oil leases
An Inupiat Eskimo family says it is owed up to $200 million in unpaid rent after a major oil company siphoned oil from offshore Prudhoe Bay fields for years by using a drill site on the family's land.
The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs should collect the unpaid rent and turn it over to the Oenga family, which 40 years ago acquired its Native allotment on the edge of the vast Prudhoe Bay oil field, the family said in a court filing this month.
The money is owed, the family says, because BP violated its decades-long contract with the family when it expanded its drilling from the allotment to access several offshore deposits.
BP disagrees that it violated the contract and says in court filings that little or no money is owed to the family.
Rather than suing BP directly, the family is targeting the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, which was in charge of gathering BP's lease payments for the allotment.
"It wasn't collecting proper rent," said Joe Delia, a family member.
The fight has been winding through the Court of Federal Claims for three years. Ten months ago, the family won a key victory: A federal judge ordered BP to stop using a drill site on the 40-acre allotment -- which juts into the Beaufort Sea -- to access the offshore Lisburne oil pool. Also, the judge said the BIA, which did not act on the family's complaints, neglected its duty as a trustee to protect the family's financial interests.
Wherever you look: No accountability, no transparency.