Opinion: Don't include Indian Country in BLM fracking regulation

A fracking operation in North Dakota. Photo by Joshua Doubek / Wikipedia

Writer argues against the inclusion of Indian Country in fracking regulations issued by the Bureau of Land Management:
Last summer, as President Barack Obama visited the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in Cannon Ball, he called the economic and educational hardships faced by Native Americans “a moral call to action.” The president has claimed he will write a “new chapter” by keeping promises to Native Americans, but sadly, his administration’s recent regulations deny Native Americans economic opportunities they sorely need.

Consider the Department of the Interior last week released top-down regulation of fracking on tribal lands, which the federal government holds in trust. These redundant rules leave American Indians at a competitive disadvantage, quashing a huge opportunity for economic growth.

Tribal lands host an outsized — and grossly underdeveloped — share of energy resources. As the Washington Times recently noted, “About 25 percent of the nation’s onshore oil and gas reserves rest underneath tribal lands, but those lands account for roughly 5 percent of U.S. production.”

Development of these resources could change the lives of American Indians. The Council of Energy Resource Tribes estimates the energy resources on tribal lands could be worth as much as $1.5 trillion. In addition to raising revenue, energy development would also create good jobs, even for workers with little education.

Native Americans desperately need this sort of economic boost. More than one in four live in poverty, according to the Pew Research Center. Their high school graduation rates linger at 17 percent below the national average. Even as the economic recovery continues, native people continue to experience roughly double the unemployment rate of the nation.

Get the Story:
Jillian Melchior: New Obama administration fracking regs especially hurt Native Americans (The Bismarck Tribune 3/29)

Federal Register Notice:
Oil and Gas; Hydraulic Fracturing on Federal and Indian Lands (March 26, 2015)

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