July 11, 2008

Dorgan Secures Commitment for Nine New Staff to Get Fort Berthold Energy Development Moving

Fort Berthold Agency Oil and Gas Dividion Staffing/Funding Plan
Following a meeting with the Interior Secretary and a request to jump-start energy development on the Fort Berthold Reservation, the Department of Interior has agreed to Chairman Byron Dorgan’s request to add nine new employees to help manage the energy leasing and development activities on the Reservation. Six of the employees will be located in New Town, and three new employees will be added to the Great Plains Regional Office to assist with the growing energy work. In the meantime, current employees with experience in oil and gas development will be detailed to the Fort Berthold Agency office until these nine new positions are filled.
Dorgan received the commitment as part of an action plan he requested from the Secretary of Interior to improve energy development on Fort Berthold.
“There is oil production to the north, west, and south of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. But only one well has been drilled on the reservation despite the fact that it is located on top of the Bakken Oil Shale Formation, which has estimated reserves of nearly four billion barrels of oil,” Dorgan said. “The Fort Berthold Reservation is being left behind because of the bureaucracy, and that isn’t fair.”
Based on the production surrounding the reservation, the Department of Interior estimates there is a potential to drill 100 wells, which would have estimated gross revenue of $2.9 billion over ten years. This new production could lead to potential annual royalty payments of over $528 million to trust land owners.
Dorgan says the new staffing is a good start, and he appreciates the actions the Interior Secretary is taking to ensure Fort Berthold is moving ahead with energy development.
“Western North Dakota is experiencing aggressive growth in the energy sector, but because of a lack of resources and an outdated 49-step process for handling drilling permits and leasing, the people on the Fort Berthold Reservation are not able to take full advantage of this economic opportunity,” said Dorgan. “The additional staff will help manage the energy leasing and development work, but we still need to speed up the process. I intend to keep monitoring the progress of the federal agencies involved to make sure Fort Berthold can contribute to our nation’s energy production.”
The Secretary also committed $500,000 to develop a programmatic approach that he says will speed up National Environmental Policy Act reviews. The BIA expects to process 1,500 leases and more than 100 drilling permits on the Reservation, and a programmatic approach is needed to handle this volume of work.
As Chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, Dorgan issued a report in June that detailed obstacles to energy development on Fort Berthold, including lack of sufficient staff, an extensive federal review process, and vacant leadership positions. Dorgan met with the Interior Secretary and asked for a specific plan to see that the oil development opportunities are pursued on the Indian Reservation.