Home > newsroom > Page
Hastings Statement Before the Rules Committee on Cobell Amendment


WASHINGTON, D.C., May 24, 2010 - House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Doc Hastings (WA-04) delivered the following statement (as prepared for delivery) before the Rules Committee regarding his amendment to improve the Cobell v. Salazar settlement agreement:

“My amendment will improve the Cobell Settlement authorized in section 607 of H.R. 4213, for the benefit of the individual Indians affected by the proposed settlement. The amendment addresses a number of concerns expressed by Indians and will help ensure that they receive the most from this settlement.

Just last week, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians adopted a resolution requesting five amendments to the Settlement as proposed in a “Dear Tribal Leader” letter by the Vice Chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, John Barrasso of Wyoming. My amendment makes these five improvements. I would note that the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians represents more than 50 federally recognized tribes in Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Nevada, Northern California, and Alaska.

A key improvement my amendment makes is to cap attorney fees at $50 million, and utilize the savings to increase payments to Indian damages claimants. For reasons neither the Administration nor the Plaintiffs attorneys have divulged, both parties agreed that attorneys may be paid in excess of $100 million. This is a high figure by any standard – it represents up to one-third of the claims the attorneys litigated.

Every dollar paid to attorneys is a dollar that comes out of the pocket of individual Indians. We have an obligation to ensure that individual Indians, not lawyers, receive the most money possible.

It should also be noted that the $50 million cap on fees is not arbitrary. It reflects an amount the Plaintiff attorneys indicated they can live with under their signed agreement with the government.

My amendment makes other needed improvements to the proposed settlement.

  • It adjusts the formula for compensating those with damages claims to prevent an inequity that would result from the current formula. These increased payments are paid for by the cap on attorney fees.
  • It limits incentive award payments to the Named Plaintiffs to actual, unreimbursed out-of-pocket expenses incurred by them. Currently, the Settlement sets no limit on such awards. Once again, this amendment ensures that greatest amount of the settlement goes to the individual Indians.
  • My amendment also ensures that the bank where the settlement funds to be deposited is secure, safe, and independent of the Plaintiffs.
  • Finally, my amendment requires the Department of the Interior to engage in tribal consultation and offer contracting opportunities to the tribes as it administers the $2 billion land consolidation program, which will dramatically affect the tribal land base out West.

I believe my amendment is not only needed, but should be considered non-controversial as it simply seeks to provide for the greatest return for individual Indians. It also addressed the concerns and questions identified by many individual Indians and Tribal leaders.”

Background

Earlier today, Hastings introduced an amendment to fix and improve the proposed Cobell v. Salazar settlement agreement included in the Democrats’ tax extender package (H.R. 4213). Click here for more information on the amendment.

# # #

Print version of this document


Contact: Jill Strait or Spencer Pederson (202) 226-2311

Latest News

Bishop: FWS Mimics EPA Tactics in Expansive Critical Habitat Proposal

Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service announced the finalization of a new policy for defining and designating critical habitat under the Endangered Specie...... Read more

Committee Advances Bipartisan “National 9/11 Memorial at the World Trade Center Act”

Today, the Committee on Natural Resources passed H.R. 3036 (Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-NJ), the “National 9/11 Memorial at the World Trade Center Act,” legislation designating the National September 11 Mem...... Read more

New York Times: How Free Electricity Helped Dig $9 Billion Hole in Puerto Rico

To understand how Puerto Rico’s power authority has piled up $9 billion in debt, one need only visit this bustling city on the northwest coast. Twenty years ago, it was just another town with dwindlin...... Read more

View All News

Calendar

The Costly Impacts of Predation and Conflicting Federal Statutes on Native and Endangered Fish Species
Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans | 1334 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515
Legislative Hearing on H.R. 87, H.R. 295, H.R. 1621 and H.R. 2817
Subcommittee on Federal Lands | 1324 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515
The U.S. Department of Treasury's Analysis of the Situation in Puerto Rico
Full Committee | 1324 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515
View All Events