Judge hears dispute over make-up of Trump energy panel

Published 01-17-2019

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BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - U.S. government attorneys have asked a federal judge in Montana to dismiss allegations that a Trump administration panel reviewing royalties paid by fossil fuel companies is stacked with industry supporters.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula presided over a Wednesday hearing in the case. He did not issue an immediate decision.

A Montana-based conservation group called the Western Organization of Resource Councils sued the administration in August. It wants to disband the Interior Department's Royalty Policy Committee and strike down its recommendations.

The committee was established in 2017 by former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. It's supposed to find ways to expedite drilling and mining, while making sure taxpayers aren't shortchanged by companies.

The lawsuit claims the committee has favored industry with recommendations to speed up oil and gas lease sales in the Arctic and hasten drilling approvals.

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