Interior official says big oil-royalty giveaway was likely a mistake

Remember that $7 billion to $9 billion in royalty payments that oil and gas companies won’t be sending to American taxpayers for leases on public land? Turns out it’s the result of an Interior Department mistake. Oopsie! According to testimony yesterday before a House subcommittee, in 1998 and 1999 Interior “inadvertently” dropped restrictions on royalty relief from leases for Gulf of Mexico drilling sites. There was no “affirmative policy decision” to that effect. Just a bit of a goof. A $9 billion goof. Can we say that again? A $9 billion goof. After a recent New York Times investigation uncovered the royalty shortfall, lawmakers, who were shocked — shocked! — to find taxpayers being defrauded, launched investigations. But what do you do when you find out that it was just a goof? A — did we say this already? — $9 billion goof. What’s the sane response? We recommend that House subcommittee members go home, drink a six-pack of cheap beer, watch American Idol, and just try to forget the whole thing ever happened.