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Prairie Cnty. v. United States

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

April 6, 2015

PRAIRIE COUNTY, MONTANA, GREENLEE COUNTY, ARIZONA, Plaintiffs-Appellants
v.
UNITED STATES, Defendant-Appellee

Appeal from the United States Court of Federal Claims in No. 1:12-cv-00645-MMS, Judge Margaret M. Sweeney.

ALAN IRVING SALTMAN, Smith, Currie & Hancock LLP, Washington, DC, argued for plaintiffs-appellants. Also represented by EVANGELIN LEE NICHOLS; CHARLES W. SURASKY, Atlanta, GA.

SHARON ANN SNYDER, Commercial Litigation Branch, Civil Division, United States Department of Justice, Washington, DC, argued for defendant-appellee. Also represented by STUART F. DELERY, ROBERT E. KIRSCHMAN, JR., BRYANT G. SNEE, SCOTT MACGRIFF.

Before LOURIE, O'MALLEY, and REYNA, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 686

Lourie, Circuit Judge

Prairie County, Montana, and Greenlee County, Arizona (collectively, the " Plaintiffs" ) appeal from the decision of the United States Court of Federal Claims (the " Claims Court" ) dismissing their claim against the United States (the " government" ) seeking additional payments under the Payment in Lieu of Taxes Act (" PILT" ), 31 U.S.C. § § 6901--6907 (2006), for fiscal years 2006 and 2007. See Prairie Cnty. v. United States, 113 Fed.Cl. 194 (2013). Because we conclude, as we did in Greenlee County v. United States, 487 F.3d 871 (Fed. Cir. 2007), reh'g & reh'g en banc denied, No. 06-5053 (Fed. Cir. Aug. 23, 2007), cert. denied, 552 U.S. 1142, 128 S.Ct. 1082, 169 L.Ed.2d 810 (2008), that the applicable version of 31 U.S.C. § 6906 limits the government's liability under PILT to the amount appropriated by Congress, we affirm.

Background

I

In 1976, Congress enacted PILT to " compensate[] local governments for the loss of tax revenues resulting from the tax-immune status of federal lands located in their jurisdictions, and for the cost of providing services related to these lands." Lawrence Cnty. v. Lead-Deadwood Sch. Dist. No. 40-1, 469 U.S. 256, 258, 105 S.Ct. 695, 83 L.Ed.2d 635 (1985). PILT directs the Department of the Interior (" Interior" ) to " make a payment for each fiscal year to each unit of general local government in which entitlement land is located." 31 U.S.C. § 6902(a)(1). It also provides that the " local government may use the payment for any governmental purpose." Id.

PILT provides two alternative formulas for calculating the amount of payment with respect to each eligible local government based on the size of entitlement land within the jurisdiction of the local government, the population within that jurisdiction, and any funds that the local government received during the prior fiscal year from certain federal revenue-sharing programs. Id. § 6903. Section 6903(b)(1) provides that " [a] payment under section 6902 of this title is equal to the greater of" the two amounts derived from the alternative formulas. The applicable version of § 6906 (2006) further provides that " [n]ecessary amounts may be appropriated to the Secretary of the Interior to carry out this chapter. Amounts are available only as provided in appropriation laws." The principal question in this appeal is whether the government's liability under PILT is limited by the amount appropriated by Congress for fiscal years 2006 and 2007.

II

In a prior suit, Greenlee County unsuccessfully sought full payments according to PILT statutory formulas. For fiscal years 1998 through 2004, Congress did not appropriate sufficient funds to provide for full payments to all eligible local governments according to PILT formulas. Interior followed the relevant regulation[1] and proportionally reduced PILT payments to each local government. Greenlee County thus received PILT payments for each of those fiscal years, but did not receive the full amount according to the statutory formulas.

In 2004, Greenlee County sued the United States in the Claims Court seeking to recover the difference between the amounts ...


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