WASHINGTON DC –
Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne said he will meet a deadline set by Chairman Byron Dorgan (D-ND) to provide an action plan on improving energy development on the Fort Berthold Reservation. The deadline for the action plan is July 7, 2008.
In a meeting in Dorgan’s office today with Marcus Wells, Chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes, Secretary Kempthorne and other tribal officials, Dorgan told Kempthorne he is tired of inaction by the BIA, and to fix the broken system of permitting oil wells on Indian Trust land. The BIA’s report is to include what the agency will do to add resources and staffing to break the log jam.
There is oil production to the north, west, and south of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, but only one well is being drilled on the reservation. Dorgan says Fort Berthold’s location on top of the Bakken Oil Shale Formation, which has estimated reserves of nearly four billion barrels of oil, means that the tribal land could be producing more energy for our nation, but bureaucratic mismanagement, BIA vacancies, and outdated regulations at key government agencies are preventing Native Americans from benefiting from oil development.
“Today’s meeting was just a start. The real test will be whether or not the BIA will establish a way to get energy development moving on the Fort Berthold Reservation. I look forward to reviewing the detailed action plan that Secretary Kempthorne agreed to provide at my request,” said Dorgan. “I intend to keep working with Chairman Wells on this important issue, and will continue to push the BIA until they get their house in order.”
“The Fort Berthold Reservation is sitting on top of the largest oil reserve in the lower 48 states,” continued Dorgan. “It is an outrage that the people who live and work in this area are unable to take full advantage of this economic opportunity. BIA has an obligation to eliminate the bureaucratic glue that is preventing economic development to a region that desperately needs it.”
As Chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, Dorgan recently released a white paper detailing the problems facing the BIA when it comes to energy development on tribal lands. He said it is not enough to just promise more resources. He wants to see a specific plan with concrete steps that lay out how the agency will address this problem.
If the BIA fails to submit a detailed and specific plan, Dorgan said he will offer amendments in the Interior Appropriations Bill to address the BIA problems.