The Supreme Court has agreed to consider limiting the power of states and Indian tribes to impose duplicate taxes on oil and gas taken from Indian lands.
The court said it will hear a petroleum company's challenge to taxes imposed by New Mexico officials.New Mexico officials said the issue is important to western states since there are more than 150 cases in which companies with oil and gas deposits on Indian land are protesting such double taxation in Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Montana.
Cotton Petroleum Corp. and its affiliate, United Crude Co., challenged taxes on oil and gas taken from some 15,000 acres of the Jicarilla Apache reservation in New Mexico.
The corporation pays taxes to the tribe amounting to about 6 percent of its production. In addition, New Mexico levies five taxes amounting to about 8 percent of the corporation's on-reservation production.
Cotton Petroleum challenged the two biggest state taxes on the grounds they illegally overlap the taxes imposed by the tribe. The corporation said oil and gas producers in the state with deposits on non-Indian land are taxed only 8 percent of their production.
The corporation said the dual taxation interferes unlawfully with interstate commerce. It also argued that the state taxes are excessive because the corporation receives limited services from the state.
For example, Cotton Petroleum said that from 1981 through 1985 it paid $2.3 million in taxes to New Mexico but received only $89,000 in services from the state.
The New Mexico Court of Appeals upheld the state taxes last September.
"There is no requirement that benefits conferred must equal taxes extracted," the appeals court said, adding that the levies do not interfere improperly with interstate commerce.