BP America Prod. Co. v. Burton
BP America sued the United States Department of the Interior (DOI) to prevent the Minerals Management Service (MMS) from collecting methane gas royalties that were more than six years past due, citing the statute of limitations for government actions for money damages in 28 U.S.C. § 2415(a). MMS had ordered BP America to pay $4,117,607 in past royalties because it had incorrectly deducted the cost of removing carbon dioxide from the methane, which its lease required it to do for free. An administrative judge ruled that the statute of limitations did not apply MMS’s administrative order.
BP America appealed to a district court, which ruled in DOI’s favor. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia affirmed, holding that the statute of limitations did not apply because the government’s demand for additional royalties was not an action for money damages initiated by the filing of a complaint. Therefore, it was not subject to the statute of limitations in 28 U.S.C. § 2415(a).
Whether - contrary to the decision below but consistent with decisions of the Tenth and Federal Circuits - the limitations period in 28 U.S.C. § 2415(a) applies to federal agency orders requiring the payment of money claimed under a lease or other agreement.