The jaw drops

Published: Tuesday, January 30, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 29, 2007 at 10:30 p.m.

Apparently, when Interior Department bureaucrats negotiated with oil and gas companies for permission to drill on publicly owned lands, they neglected to write price thresholds (after which royalty payments would kick in) into the leases under the mistaken assumption that the thresholds were already included in federal regulations. One billion dollars has already been lost as a result, and $10 billion may be forfeited unless companies agree to renegotiate their leases. "The IRS has no problem sending out a tax bill with interest down to the very penny, but we have a problem doing that with big oil companies," said Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J. "Ask the taxpayers how they feel about that."

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