Environment | Law | National | Politics

Southern Ute Tribe sues to block fracking rule on reservation

A sign on the Southern Ute Reservation in Colorado. Photo by Jonathan P. Thompson

The Southern Ute Tribe of Colorado filed suit against the Interior Department last week in hopes of stopping a fracking rule from taking effect on the reservation.

The June 18 complaint argues that the rule violates the Indian Mineral Leasing Act of 1938 and the Indian Mineral Development Act of 1982. Those were the laws the Obama administration cited in justifying its decision to impose hydraulic fracturing standards in Indian Country.

"A ‘one size fits all’ approach that encompasses both tribal and federal lands will simply add to the already burdensome federal pre-requisites for developing tribal minerals," the complaint stated, quoting comments submitted by the tribe to the Bureau of Land Management before the rule was finalized in March.

The rule is set to go into effect on Wednesday. It allows tribes and states to request a "variance" from the federal standards but the lawsuit alleges that the process conflicts with its right to self-government.

"Hydraulic fracturing has been used by operators to achieve or enhance production from the majority of wells drilled and completed on the tribe’s lands," the complaint states.

The House Appropriations Committee approved a funding bill last week that prevents BLM from enforcing the rule. Supporters say the regulation will hinder tribal development.

"In Indian Country, they've done a good job of regulating their own land," said Rep. Ken Calvert (R-California), the chairman of the Interior appropriations subcommittee, said at a markup session last Wednesday.

The House is expected to begin consideration of the bill, H.R.2822 on Thursday, according to the Republican majority leader's schedule. It marks the first time in six years that lawmakers have considered a funding bill for DOI and its agencies, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Get the Story:
Tribe sues Dept. of Interior (The Durango Herald 6/20)

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

Related Stories:
House appropriations bill blocks fracking rule in Indian Country (6/17)
Native Sun News: North Dakota tribe sees rise in fracking wells (6/17)
White House questions 'misplaced priorities' in appropriations bill (6/16)
Native Sun News: North Dakota tribe hit with another brine spill (05/21)
Authorities look into brine spill on North Dakota reservation (05/19)
Editorial: DOI's new fracking regulations strike the right balance (04/01)
Opinion: Don't include Indian Country in BLM fracking regulation (03/30)
Interior Department includes tribal land in fracking regulation (3/20)
Native Sun News: Oil spill threatens North Dakota tribe's water (03/18)
Native Sun News: Tribe keeps wraps on tests of water after spill (03/09)
Editorial: New York governor makes right decision to ban fracking (12/18)
Winona LaDuke: Fracking bans needed across Indian Country (10/09)
Native Sun News: Tribes urged to ban fracking on reservations (08/12)
Jay Daniels: Concerns about fracking lie with disposal of waste (06/26)
Energy company vows complete disclosure of fracking fluids (04/25)
House committee approves Native American Energy Act (06/13)
DOI extends comment period on rule for hydraulic fracturing (06/06)
DOI defends inclusion of Indian lands in fracking regulation (05/24)
DOI releases update to fracking regulation on Indian lands (5/16)

Join the Conversation