Inupiat family owed $4.9M for oil field access

Anchorage, Alaska (AP) February 2011

A federal judge says an Inupiat Eskimo family from Barrow is owed $4.9 million for unauthorized use of their North Slope land for oil production by BP.

The Anchorage Daily News says the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs was in charge of collecting rent from BP, which uses the Oenga family’s Native allotment to access oil fields. The BIA was also in charge of negotiating lease payments with BP on the family’s behalf.

A November ruling in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims case found that the BIA approved BP’s expanded use of the allotment without the family’s consent, in violation of the family’s contract with BP.

Federal Claims Court Judge Nancy Firestone of Washington, D.C., set damages at $4.9 million last week.

BIA officials did not immediately return calls for comment. BP Alaska spokesman Steve Rinehart says the company is considering its legal options.