AG, Governor, Crow Nation Sign Settlement Agreement Resolving Coal Severance Tax Litigation

At a joint signing ceremony held this morning at Billings Logan International Airport, Montana Attorney General Tim Fox, Montana Governor Steve Bullock, and Crow Nation Chairman Darrin Old Coyote signed a settlement agreement resolving long-standing litigation concerning the assessment of taxes on coal owned by the Crow Nation.

Settlement of the litigation was negotiated as part of the Crow Tribe – Montana Water Rights Compact that was approved by the Montana Legislature during a special session in 1999.  In 2010, Congress approved the Water Compact; in 2012, the Crow Nation, the United States of America, and the State of Montana executed the Water Compact in a signing ceremony in Washington, DC, resolving more than 30 years of litigation and negotiations.  The Water Compact allowed the Tribe to focus on key water projects on the Crow Reservation.

The Water Compact also stipulated that as consideration for the Crow Tribe’s agreement to protect certain water rights recognized under state law, and to release certain legal claims asserted against the State, the State of Montana would contribute the sum of $15 million to the Crow Tribe for economic development and water and sewer infrastructure within the Crow Reservation.  As part of the settlement of litigation, the State also agreed that any future coal production taxes collected by the State on production of coal owned by the United States in Trust for the Crow Tribe would be paid to the Tribe.

“This is a historic day for the State of Montana and for the Crow Nation. This responsible agreement was the result of years of working government-to-government to do the right thing for all Montanans, and I thank the Crow Tribe for its hard work in securing a stronger future for all its members,” Governor Steve Bullock said.

“Coal mining is key to the economic well-being of Montana as well as to the Crow Nation,” Attorney General Tim Fox said.  “Today’s coal severance tax litigation settlement is long overdue and welcome news for the Crow Nation, which has experienced a 47% unemployment rate since coal markets began to shrink due in part to over-reaching regulations on the part of EPA.”

“The enforceability of our water settlement, the resolution of the coal severance litigation and the payment of the $15 million will enable the Crow Nation to provide critical services to our tribal membership and will allow us to plan for the future of our Nation,” said Crow Nation Chairman Darrin Old Coyote.  “I appreciate all of the hard work of the Tribal, State and Federal officials that have gotten us to this day, and we look forward to working cooperatively with the State going forward as we embark on this new era of Crow self-sufficiency and management of our tribal resources.”

In 2014, Attorney General Fox and the Crow Nation worked together to raise concerns about EPA’s proposed carbon regulations, citing that agency’s lack of legal authority and failure to consult with the Tribe.  Read the related news release here. Last year, Attorney General Fox joined 23 other state attorneys general in a lawsuit challenging the Obama Administration’s carbon regulations.  Read the news release here. 

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