Watt v. Alaska

LOCATION: 1980 Democratic National Convention, Madison Square Garden

DOCKET NO.: 79-1890
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 451 US 259 (1981)
ARGUED: Jan 13, 1981
DECIDED: Apr 21, 1981

Charles K. Cranston - on behalf of the Petitioner, Kenai Peninsula Borough
G. Thomas Koester - on behalf of the Respondents
Louis F. Claiborne - on behalf of the Petitioners, Cecil D. Andrus, Secretary of the Interior, et al

Facts of the case


Media for Watt v. Alaska

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 13, 1981 in Watt v. Alaska

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - April 21, 1981 in Watt v. Alaska

Warren E. Burger:

The judgments and opinion of the Court in James Watt, the Secretary of Interior, against Alaska and the consolidated case will be announced by announced by Justice Powell.

Lewis F. Powell, Jr.:

This case comes to us on certiorari from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The Kenai National Moose Range is a national wildlife refuge created from public lands in Alaska.

The Secretary of the Interior for many years had granted oil and gas leases within the Range.

The question in this case concerns entitlement to royalties received under these leases.

The question arises because of facial conflict between two statutes enacted by Congress.

Under the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 and a formula consistently applied until -- from the 1950s until 1975, Alaska received 90% of the revenue and the United States government 10%.

The Secretary of the Interior now relies on a 1964 amendment to a later statute, the Wildlife Refuge Sharing Act.

On its face this statute allocates 25% of the revenue to counties in which the refuge is located and 75% to the United States.

In the absence of any evidence of congressional intent to repeal the earlier statute by implication, we conclude as a matter of statutory construction that the original allocation of revenue remains in effect.

This is entirely consistent with administrative interpretation that continued until 1975.

We therefore affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

Mr. Justice Stevens has filed a concurring opinion.

Mr. Justice Stewart has filed a dissenting opinion joined by the Chief Justice and Mr. Justice Marshall.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you Justice Powell.