Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

State Wants Royalties from Coal-Mined Land / Petition Filed

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

State Wants Royalties from Coal-Mined Land / Petition Filed

Article excerpt

TULSA (AP) - In an appeal that could mean more funds for state schools, the U.S. Supreme Court is being asked whether Oklahoma may collect royalties on thousands of acres of state land from which coal is mined.

The state owns more than a million acres of mineral interests, said Pary Shofner, director of the mineral management division for the commissioners of the state Land Office.

The high court is being asked to decide whether coal was included when the state reserved ownership of at least half the ``oil, gas and other minerals'' at the time it sold thousands of acres of land acquired through mortgage foreclosures.

State law requires the state to preserve ownership of ``oil, gas and other minerals'' beneath land it sells.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has sent mixed signals concerning the question, most recently in a 1987 decision that became effective four months ago. In that decision, the state court ruled 5-4 that coal should not be included among the minerals to which the state may claim title.

The state court said the phrase ``oil, gas and other minerals'' has an established meaning in Oklahoma. The court opinion said the minerals other than oil and gas alluded to include only those ``produced as a component or constituent thereof, such as casinghead gas.''

Justice Robert Simms said in previous decisions, the court held that minerals did not include gravel, gypsum rock or limestone.

In a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, the state claims the Oklahoma Supreme Court decision ``will result in diminishing the benefits conferred by Congress'' under the Oklahoma enabling act of 1906.

The state was given 3.1 million acres in western Oklahoma and $5 million in lieu of land in the eastern part of the state at statehood. …

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