Jay Daniels: Energy mismanagement at BIA isn't anything new

Energy development in Indian Country. Photo from Bureau of Indian Affairs

Jay Daniels of Round House Talk offers a few more examples of mismanagement of energy development at the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Interior Department:
Routinely, the Bureau of Land Management ("BLM") fails to honor their memorandum of agreement with the Department of Interior ("DOI") to provide close oversight of oil and gas development, including monitoring production and reported sales. BLM is only too motivated to contract these functions to tribes who mostly utilizes work forces that are lacking, mainly due to funding and training.

Bureau of Indian Affairs ("BIA") and tribal staffing is woefully underfunded even though the oil and gas resources are vast and profitable to tribes and individual Indian mineral owners. The most agencies have no mineral appraisers available.

The BIA's Land Titles & Records Office is so overwhelmed with recording title conveyances and certifying title status reports ("TSR"), by the time a TSR is completed the price of oil and gas has decreased and many proposed wells in Indian Country have been postponed until prices climb higher, or not drilled at all. BIA agencies with the highest volume of leasing activity need to have their own TSR Certifying Officer on site so that the tribe and agency can convey what trust mineral tracts need to be given higher priority.

Interior should follow through and establish a service oriented office ("One Stop Office") where minerals owners could discuss issues directly with those agencies responsible for development, collecting and distributing oil and gas income. These agencies would include BIA, Division of Energy and Mineral Development ("DEMD"), BLM, Office of Appraisal Services, and Office of Natural Resources Revenue (formerly the Minerals Management Service, or MMS).

As we are seeing now, timing is everything. Interior has a Division of Energy and Mineral Development ("DEMD") Program. The Division assists tribes with the environmentally responsible exploration, development and management of their energy and mineral resources to create sustainable economies for reservations, generate new jobs and economic self-sufficiency. Fort Berthold Agency does have DEMD staff located in the BIA agency office, but more is needed.

Get the Story:
Jay Daniels: Mismanagement of Oil & Gas Development isn’t a new thing (Round House Talk 6/22)

Government Accountability Office Report:
Indian Energy Development: Poor Management by BIA Has Hindered Energy Development on Indian Lands (June 2015)

Related Stories:
GAO report questions BIA's management of Indian energy duties (06/15)

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