President Obama Signs Claims Settlement Act

Monday, January 3, 2011 - 01:00

On December 8, 2010, President Barack Obama signed into law the Claims Resolution Act of 2010, which provides $4 billion to individual American Indians and Indian tribes to resolve disputes over past royalties from oil, gas and timber extraction from their lands and water rights disputes in Arizona, New Mexico and Montana.Title IV of this Act - the Crow Tribe Water Rights Settlement Act of 2010 - resolves decades-old claims against the government regarding the water rights of the Crow Tribe and provides important funding for water projects for irrigation and power.

The Crow Tribe Water Rights Settlement Act provides the tribe with water rights in excess of 1 million acre feet per year, as well as over $460 million in federal benefits, including the first clean drinking water system for the Crow Reservation, rehabilitation of a dilapidated irrigation project on the Reservation, a clean energy development fund and hydropower development rights on the Big Horn River.

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), a key figure in the effort, stated, "This law will provide important funding for water projects for irrigation and power - without adding a dime to the federal deficit.And these projects will create jobs and stimulate economic growth for the Tribe."

Don Pongrace, head of the American Indian Law and Policy practice at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP in Washington, who led the representation of the Crow Tribe in this matter, stated, "For two years, Akin Gump has had the privilege of working with Chairman Black Eagle and the Crow Tribe to bring about the passage of this legislation.We are very proud to have played a role in another one of the largest water rights settlements in U.S. history."

Akin Gump is representing long-standing client Bridas Corporation in its acquisition of joint-venture partner BP's stake in Pan American Energy for $7.059 billion. The deal, announced on November 28, 2010, is expected to close in mid-2011. Pan American Energy is Argentina's second-largest oil producer.

Bridas Corporation, which will acquire BP's 60 percent stake in Pan American Energy, is co-owned by Bridas Energy Holdings and CNOOC, the Chinese state-owned oil and gas group. CNOOC acquired a 50 percent stake in Bridas Corporation from Bridas Energy Holdings in March 2010.

Rick L. Burdick, the leader of Akin Gump's international corporate transactions practice, stated, "This is the second significant deal for the firm advising Bridas this year. The two transactions illustrate our strengths internationally.The first was a major cross-border English law joint venture between Bridas Energy Holdings and CNOOC. The second, between Bridas Corporation and BP, was carried out under New York law. Both are transformational deals in the energy sector and capitalize on our comprehensive understanding of the industry globally."

The deal was led by Akin Gump corporate partners Seth R. Molay in Dallas and Steven Blakeley in London, supported by teams in the United States and London.