North Dakota Leaders, U.S. Interior Secretary Discuss Issues Facing Tribal Communities

Congressional Delegation, Governor Focus on Oil Boom's Impact on Indian Country

New Town – Senators Kent Conrad and John Hoeven, Congressman Rick Berg, and Governor Jack Dalrymple welcomed U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to North Dakota’s Fort Berthold Reservation today, accompanying him on a tour of oil production facilities. 

As head of the Interior Department, Secretary Salazar plays a key role in energy development on public and tribal lands, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and other issues important to the Three Affiliated Tribes and North Dakota. 

"The  oil boom has brought great opportunity to the people of the Three Affiliated Tribes. They are right here in the heart of the Bakken.  But the boom has also put a lot of stress on the community's infrastructure. We need a state and federal commitment to partner with the Tribe to  rebuild and maintain the roads and highways," Senator Conrad said. "We welcome the news that the Administration will help expedite leasing and issuing of permits for oil and gas development."

“The tribes are sharing in the growth of North Dakota’s energy industry, and our tribal compact that we executed several years ago is helping to make it happen,” Senator Hoeven said. “At the same time, there are impacts on the reservation that go with energy development as well. The changes to the permitting process Secretary Salazar announced today will hopefully help to improve the federal permitting and leasing process, but we also want Secretary Salazar to provide infrastructure assistance with BIA roads on the reservation.” 

“Before North Dakota created a single tax structure for oil royalties in 2007, it had been 27 years since any well had been drilled on the Fort Berthold Reservation.  Today, a growing energy sector has opened the door for new economic opportunity, good paying jobs, and increased revenue for the Three Affiliated Tribes, and we need to ensure that common sense policies are in place that encourage the continued production of the region’s natural resources,” Congressman Berg stated. “To ensure that the Three Affiliated Tribes can continue to develop their resources, we must continue working to streamline the leasing, permitting, and royalty processes on both tribal and allotted lands and take steps to ensure that regulatory complexity does not slow down oil and gas exploration on North Dakota’s Reservations.” 

“We are pleased to have the opportunity to speak directly with Secretary Salazar about some topics important to us in North Dakota, particularly the maintenance of BIA roads and the need to streamline the federal permitting process for oil development on the reservations,” Governor Dalrymple said.  “I also welcome the opportunity to explain to Secretary Salazar our new drilling regulations which include the reporting of fracking chemicals and a ban on the use of open pits.” 

The North Dakota leaders and Secretary Salazar participated in an inspection to see firsthand the effects oil development has had on the region’s infrastructure before visiting an active oil rig just outside of New Town.

The Fort Berthold Reservation received more than $117.4 million in royalty revenue in 2011 – a 400 percent increase over the previous year – from the production of oil, natural gas and other hydrocarbons on Indian lands. The revenue sharing arrangement is the result of a 2008 state-tribal compact established during Sen. Hoeven’s governorship. 

The Congressional delegation and Governor also introduced Secretary Salazar to tribal leaders and took part in a meeting to discuss a wide range of issues important to the tribe including the need for state and federal agencies to help support public services and infrastructure such as roads, housing and health care that has been stressed by the oil boom.   

The Three Affiliated Tribes consists of 490 miles of Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and Tribal roads, with 100 of those miles in need of repair or total design and reconstruction.  This is due to the influx of people and vehicles caused by the oil boom, and many of the roads were not built to support heavy trucks or the heavy traffic.