The U.S. Interior Department has undercut Amoco Production Co. in a case about ownership of coalbed methane gas around the Southern Ute reservation in Colorado.
The reservation area is a patchwork of private and tribal land holdings.
In the Coal Lands Acts of 1909 and 1910, Congress claimed the rights to coal under the area and later awarded them to the tribe. Nothing was said about the methane, then considered both hazardous and worthless.
In the last 2 decades, methane has become a valuable resource, and oil companies began producing it from tribal and private lands in the reservation.