The chairman of the House's newly established Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs has asked three tribal leaders including one from North Dakota for recommendations in writing new legislation on tribal energy resources and development.
Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, is chairman of the subcommittee. The subcommittee is a unit of the House Natural Resources Committee.
After listening to testimony in Washington, D.C., April 1 from Tex Hall, chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes, Ben Shelly, president of the Navaho Nation, and Scott Russell, secretary of the Crow Tribe, Young said, "We are going to write a bill and I want you three to submit your needs to us. We need new legislation aimed at getting rid of red tape, and we will give tribes an expanded role in decision-making."
Hall told the subcommittee members the Fort Berthold Reservation is on top of the Bakken Field, the largest continuous oil accumulation within the lower 48 states.
He said oil and gas exploration on Fort Berthold has lagged behind energy development on non-Indian lands in North Dakota largely because of unnecessary red tape and bureaucratic delays at the U.S. Department of Interior, in processing the necessary approvals under federal law. He said some of the obstacles delaying development of oil and gas on the reservation are outdated and duplicate federal regulations.
Hall said five separate agencies are involved in the leasing, permitting, royalty collection and royalty payment activities, and the Interior Department's 49-step process for obtaining federal approval can take as long as two years to complete.
The five agencies are the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Office of Special Trustee and Environmental Protection Agency.
He said the process needs to be streamlined, and made less complicated and more efficient for allottees while at the same time the federal government must continue to fulfill its trust responsibility. Allottees are individual landowers.
A one-stop shop was set up on Fort Berthold to help streamline the process of approval and regulation of Indian oil and gas leases but last year's energy bill which contained language for its funding did not make it through Congress, Hall said. He said there is no budget to continue the concept but the BIA staff supports the need for it.
The Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs, established late last year, oversees all matters regarding Native Americans, including the 562 federally recognized tribes and Alaska Native Corporations, and nearly 1.9 million American Indians.