Wyoming right for fighting federal robbery

2013-04-10T00:00:00Z 2013-04-15T14:49:08Z Wyoming right for fighting federal robbery Casper Star-Tribune Online
April 10, 2013 12:00 am

There’s that old expression that defines the “Golden Rule” as “he who has the gold makes the rules.”

Normally, it’s meant to be funny, ironic or even critical.

But the phrase is just sad when it becomes the literal truth.

That’s the case for Wyoming as it fights for about $53 million in mineral royalty payments owed to it from the federal government. Late last month, Wyoming received a letter from the Department of the Interior that said that due to sequestration, money Wyoming is rightfully owed as its share of mineral royalty payments from land insides its borders was being taken because the federal government was a little short on cash.

The background is essential. This is not an entitlement. This is not a program the federal government just established because of benevolence. Something tangible that has market value — namely minerals like coal and gas — were taken from Wyoming.

This isn’t also a matter of the federal government charitably giving what isn’t owed. Both the federal and state government require energy and extraction companies to pay royalties on minerals extracted within Wyoming’s borders. However, to make matters easier for everyone, the companies pay royalties to the federal government which then splits the money and sends it back to Wyoming. It’s done as a convenience — companies can cut one check to satisfy both the state and federal government because supposedly we’re all on the same team.

Until now.

There is no disagreement about how the royalty payments are structured. There is no philosophical difference about who should collect what. There’s not even a valuation question; that is, there’s no question about how much was extracted and how much should be paid.

Instead, the government collected the rightfully owed mineral royalties and decided to pocket money that should have gone into the state’s coffers.

Unfortunately, the federal government through the Department of the Interior has both the gold and can make the rules. After all, how do you fight the United States of America?

That’s not a rhetorical question.

Instead, it was a question that Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead asked the attorney general’s office to study quickly. Mead asked the state to do everything it could to fight the seizure of the money owed to Wyoming.

The answer he received is there’s not a lot a state can do when the government takes money and won’t give it back.

The federal government and the Department of the Interior can call it whatever they want—“sequestration” or a one-time impounding of the royalties—but the truth of the matter is that the federal government has reneged on a deal. It has taken money that it isn’t entitled to. In other words, it has stolen the funds.

We applaud the state for doing everything it can to stop this injustice. This isn’t analogous to the federal government trimming funds to states for various programs. This has nothing to do with programs. The federal government was simply acting as a fiscal agent for Wyoming and should have been a pass-through. If this were any other organization doing something this outlandish, it’d be accused of embezzlement.

It’s sad when a state has no recourse to sue the government to do the right thing. Moreover, this doesn’t seem like a gray area. It seems like an agreement was hashed out years ago.

The federal government seems to do this because it believes it can. But doing that is akin to saying might makes right. Even if the state could litigate such a case, tax dollars would have to be spent on both sides. In a legal battle to clear this mess, taxpayer dollars would have been spent to fund lawyers on both sides as the state fights the federal government.

The federal government has created a budget mess and now it seems desperate to beg, borrow and, as it turns out, steal in order to solve the problem. But, Washington D.C.’s financial incompetence and leadership deficit shouldn’t mean it’s all right to take what it has no right to.

Beyond seeming both legally and ethically suspect — taking something that doesn’t belong to you would appear to be hard to argue — maybe the most disheartening aspect is that this most recent action by the federal government seems to only reinforce what most people think about Washington, D.C. In other words, this gives people just one more reason to distrust and believe federal government is broken.

That may not be the case, but it’s darn hard to argue that it’s running well when it resorts to these sorts of shenanigans.

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(10) Comments

  1. Jackalope
    Report Abuse
    Jackalope - April 11, 2013 8:35 am
    One thing for sure, Super, you do not read what you write, or your conversation would not be going in different directions on the same page.
  2. Jackalope
    Report Abuse
    Jackalope - April 10, 2013 9:50 pm
    OK, that is what you believe, but can you read?
  3. supercalifragilistic
    Report Abuse
    supercalifragilistic - April 10, 2013 7:50 pm
    Mr Jackalope, Wyoming is not owned by the federal government.
  4. Jackalope
    Report Abuse
    Jackalope - April 10, 2013 7:38 pm
    supercalifragilistic, does the organic act admitting Wyoming to the Union have to be printed in CAPITAL letters in order for you to read it?
  5. supercalifragilistic
    Report Abuse
    supercalifragilistic - April 10, 2013 5:59 pm
    dd ric, if may respond?
    There are no "Federally Owned lands" in Wyoming. Just Federally Managed Lands in Wyoming - BIG DIFFERENCE!
    Therefore, since the Federal Government manages and not owns lands in Wyoming, this money belongs to Wyoming. Just thought I'd educate anyone with the preconceived notion that the Federal Government owns Wyoming's public lands.
    THEY DON'T!
    Nor do they (Federal Gov't) have a right to Wyoming's share of land revenues generated from Wyoming.
  6. dd ric
    Report Abuse
    dd ric - April 10, 2013 1:14 pm
    Another pathetic "editorial" from the trib group of poop. Gov. Mead is too good to accept any AHCA monies and is now whining about monies from Federal lands belonging to the State? NO,the monies came from Federal lands and leases ,not private properties.In a state that's 63% Federal lands with the US govt. being the largest employer,what's Mead gonna do when his DC3 did NOTHING about the sequester.We can all be sure Mead,Barrasso,Enzi<and Lummis will not return 5% of their salaries to ease anybodies doing with less. ddric
  7. LiferRepub1
    Report Abuse
    LiferRepub1 - April 10, 2013 12:56 pm
    Mead ought to show that he has some back bone. Spending money on lawyers hasn't been a problem for him so far. He has spent more than he should trying to cover his butt on the Cindy Hill fiasco.
  8. Jackalope
    Report Abuse
    Jackalope - April 10, 2013 8:34 am
    There may be occasions when a foot-stomping temper tantrum would be appropriate; however, this may not be the time and place. Is the "inconvenience" being suffered by the State of Wyoming more significant than the situation of an indigent who is no longer able to obtain constitutional rights through the counsel of a public defender? Is the interruption in funding of services controlled by the state any more dire that the break in a chemotherapy protocol brought about by a five percent reduction in subsidies for that program? They all make a big difference to the people involved. Maybe, a stand on principal was called for when our elected officials--not some impersonal "government"--began to climb aboard the Stupid Train, pull back on the throttle, and ignore all the signals that this train was on the wrong track. This editorial sounds surprisingly like an objection to the definition of insanity
  9. pappy
    Report Abuse
    pappy - April 10, 2013 8:10 am
    If we are entitled to the royalty payments them we should have some legal recourse but the AG, soon to be federal judge says no. If we want the 53 million dollars owed us then lets change the law or the agreement that lets the federal govt. collect our share. If it requires a change in law then the Governor can call an emergency session. If it only requires getting out of our agreement then do it. I'm sure the mineral s industry will whine a little about having to cut more than 1 check, but we can put up with some whining for 53 million dollars. Remember the Governor said the state is broke, so I don't think we can afford to lose 53 million dollars.
  10. ken
    Report Abuse
    ken - April 10, 2013 5:44 am
    Is this is truly a question that we must all wring our hands over? And over and over. Is it not bad enough that we cannot trust our Federal Government with the tax money they already steal from us? It would seem sensible to this reader, that if the more you give the fat little lazy child (no offense meant to fat, lazy children) the more they will want more. Well, conversely if this Government of our's gets less from us the people, perhaps they will get the message. After all they have been stealing long enough...
Untitled Document

Civil Dialogue

We provide this community forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the news of the day. Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. Name-calling, crude language and personal abuse are not welcome. Moderators will monitor comments with an eye toward maintaining a high level of civility in this forum. Our comment policy explains the rules of the road for registered commenters.

If your comment was not approved, perhaps...

  1. You called someone an idiot, a racist, a dope, a moron, etc. Please, no name-calling or profanity (or veiled profanity -- #$%^&*).

  2. You rambled, failed to stay on topic or exhibited troll-like behavior intended to hijack the discussion at hand.

  3. YOU SHOUTED YOUR COMMENT IN ALL CAPS. This is hard to read and annoys readers.

  4. You have issues with a business. Have a bad meal? Feel you were overcharged at the store? New car is a lemon? Contact the business directly with your customer service concerns.

  5. You believe the newspaper's coverage is unfair. It would be better to write the editor at editors@trib.com, or call Editor Jason Adrians at 266-0545 or Content Director David Mayberry at 266-0633. This is a forum for community discussion, not for media criticism. We'd rather address your concerns directly.

  6. You included an e-mail address or phone number, pretended to be someone you aren't or offered a comment that makes no sense.

  7. You accused someone of a crime or assigned guilt or punishment to someone suspected of a crime.

  8. Your comment is in really poor taste.

Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick

loading...

Featured Businesses

Latest Offers