Official Finds Interior Secretary Norton Violated Law

Here's the latest on Cobell v. Norton, the Indian Trust case:

Members of the Navajo Nation have been cheated out of tens of millions of dollars of trust revenue by the Secretary of the Interior who, in concert with major oil & gas companies, has permitted them to profit from sweetheart deals for rights of way across the Indians' individual trust lands in the West, a court official said today.

Special Master Balaran found that Interior Secretary Gale Norton has violated federal law and breached her trust duties to the Indians by allowing contracts that grossly undervalue individual Navajo trust lands, as much as 20 to 200 times below comparable lands owned by non-Indians and tribes. This allowed the gas companies to run pipelines to California at a fraction of real market costs.

In a 39-page report released today, Balaran said that Interior was valuing Individual Navajo trust lands at between $25 to $40 per rod (each rod is 5.5 yards) for pipeline rights away across their lands. At the same time non-Indians and tribes are paid as much as $170 to $550 more per rod for the same rights of way, he said.

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