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Showing 12 posts by Peter Schaumberg.

Using An Old Hammer in a New Context: ONRR and DOJ Adopt Aggressive False Claims Act Strategy for Royalty Underpayments

The government is dramatically shifting its strategy for pursuing alleged underpayments of royalties owed on production from federal and Indian mineral leases. For decades, the Department of the Interior (“DOI”)’s Office of Natural Resources Revenue (“ONRR”) pursued royalty underpayments through administratively appealable orders to pay and, where necessary, civil penalty enforcement under the Federal Oil and Gas Royalty Management Act (“FOGRMA”).  Recently, however, a “task force” including ONRR, the DOI Inspector General’s Office, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado has pursued certain royalty underpayments using the more draconian False Claims Act (“FCA”), 31 U.S.C. § 3729 et seq.  Unfortunately, for the regulated industries, this approach raises the stakes significantly, and allows the government to assess both treble damages and stiffer penalties. Read More ›

Executive Order Charts New Path For Offshore Energy Development

On April 28, 2017, the Trump administration issued an Executive Order entitled “Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy.”  This EO calls for expanded oil and gas leasing in areas of the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) that were recently placed off-limits to energy development, and instructs several federal agencies to reevaluate and possibly reverse recent regulations imposed on the offshore oil and gas industry.  If fully implemented, the EO would clear the way for expanded and expedited development of OCS energy resources.   Read More ›

Interior Secretary Immediately Implements President’s Executive Order on Energy and Climate

New Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke wasted no time implementing the mandates of the Trump Administration’s most recent Executive Order (EO), “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth,” which was issued on March 28.  For a summary of that EO, click here.  On March 29, the Secretary issued two Secretarial Orders (SO) implementing the March 28 Order, and took additional administrative action consistent with its mandates.  Separately, the Secretary has reinstated a public-private advisory committee to address royalty issues. Read More ›

New Executive Order Creates a Changed Climate for Climate Change and Energy

On March 28, 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order entitled “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth” (EO).  This latest EO aims to further incentivize domestic energy production, particularly coal, oil and gas, by rolling back regulations and guidance premised on climate change considerations.  If fully implemented, it would have noticeable and substantive impacts on EPA, Interior, and other agency programs.  Yet it remains to be seen how quickly or effectively the stroke of the President’s pen will translate into on-the-ground actions, and to what extent it may yield opportunities or challenges for energy and natural resources project development.  In the interim, the EO sets in motion several energy-based initiatives across multiple agencies warranting close monitoring and active participation. Read More ›

OSHA, EPA and DOI Increase Maximum Civil Penalties

Summary: This summer, many federal agencies increased civil monetary penalties as much as 150 percent in response to new legislation mandating that federal agencies "catch up" with inflation and remedy past government failures to adopt periodic penalty increases. Interested parties should be aware of these higher penalties, when they take effect, and whether there is still time to comment. Read More ›

BLM Proposes to Restrict Methane Releases from Oil and Gas Leases

After five years in the making, the federal Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) has proposed a rule to reduce the waste of natural gas from operations on federal and Indian oil and gas leases and to clarify when royalties apply to lost gas volumes. Read More ›

National Park Service Proposes Sweeping Changes to Oil and Gas Regulations

The National Park Service (“NPS”) today proposed a major overhaul of its regulations for non-federal oil and gas operations in National Park units.  See 80 Fed. Reg. 65,572 (Oct. 26, 2015).  Although the NPS press statement downplayed the significance of the proposal, the new rule would remake a regulatory system that has been in place for almost 40 years. The costs of compliance, particularly to existing oil and gas operations, could be substantial. Read More ›

Supreme Court Allows Agencies to Re-Interpret Their Regulations Without Rulemaking

On March 9, 2015, the Supreme Court wiped away a longstanding judicial doctrine that had placed greater procedural requirements on a federal agency when it changes its prior interpretation of a federal regulation.  The Court’s unanimous opinion in Perez v. Mortgage Bankers Association, 575 U.S. ___ (2015) held that federal agencies need not engage in public notice-and-comment rulemaking in this instance, because a new regulatory interpretation does not amount to an amendment of the regulation itself.  For a copy of the slip opinion, click here. Read More ›

Interior Department Proposes to Open Offshore Atlantic Region to Oil and Gas Leasing

The Department of the Interior today announced that it will publish for public comment a draft proposed Five-Year Program (“DPP”) governing the leasing of offshore oil and gas for 2017 through 2022.  Interior’s DPP will follow the current 2012-2017 Five-Year Program (“current program”). Read More ›

DOI Proposes Overhaul Of Federal And Indian Mineral Lease Royalty Valuation Standards

On January 6, 2015, the Department of the Interior’s Office of Natural Resources Revenue (“ONRR”) issued a proposed regulation that would substantially modify existing regulations in 30 C.F.R. Part 1206 for the valuation for royalty purposes of oil, gas, and coal from federal leases onshore and on the Outer Continental Shelf.  The proposal also would amend ONRR’s royalty valuation regulations for coal production from Indian leases.  While this proposed rule may have certain benefits for industry, ONRR is proposing to eliminate several existing provisions that will hit existing and future lessees in the pocketbook.  ONRR estimates that its proposed changes will increase royalty revenues for the federal government and Indian lessors by approximately $80 million annually. Read More ›