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Cuba Soiil & Water Conservation Dist. v. Lewis

ELR Citation: 38 ELR 20132
Nos. No. 07-2218, (10th Cir., 05/30/2008)

The Tenth Circuit held that the Federal Mineral Leasing Act (FMLA) does not provide political subdivisions of a state an implied cause of action to challenge the state's allocation of federal mineral royalties received under the Act. FMLA §191 directs the federal government to return 50% of federal mineral royalties generated from the lease of public lands to the state. It gives "priority to those subdivisions of the state socially or economically impacted by development of minerals leased." Water conservation districts argued that New Mexico, in failing to provide them a share of the royalties received under the FMLA, is violating §191. Section 191, however, is too imprecise a standard to confer a cause of action. It provides no manageable substantive standards for the court to apply in determining what portion of the lease royalties properly belong to the districts. That Congress placed civil enforcement authority on the U.S. Attorney General under §195 to remedy the FMLA violations reinforces the court's conclusion that Congress did not intend to create the cause of action the districts assert. At this point, their remedy lies in the political process rather than the judicial arena.