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North Dakota tribal panel wants to regulate oil development

BISMARCK, N.D. — Tribal leaders from an oil-prolific portion of North Dakota’s Fort Berthold Reservation say they can’t count on federal or state regulators — or their own tribal government — to monitor the boom, so they are moving to do it themselves.

Industry officials question whether the tribe has the jurisdiction to impose such rules and warned the change could severely slow oil production on the reservation, which accounts for about a third of the state’s 1.1 million barrels of daily oil production.

Lone Fight and other tribal leaders from the region said they are fed up with everything from oil spills, overweight trucks and reckless driving to the proliferation of illegal drugs and prostitution on the million-acre reservation, which is occupied by the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara tribes.

“We have the full authority to regulate and monitor all activity within our boundaries,” said Ted Lone Fight, chairman of the newly formed West Segment Regulatory Commission, a five-member panel that aims to regulate everything from oil drilling to doing background checks and drug testing for oil-field workers. He added: “We just want to protect our members and the environment.”

The leaders have sent about 3,000 letters to oil companies requiring them to register with the commission and attend a mandatory informational meeting next week in Mandaree, where one of the six tribal divisions is headquartered.

Three Affiliated Tribes Chairman Mark Fox has not endorsed the move, Lone Fight said. Fox did not return telephone calls or an email seeking comment on Wednesday.

Related: After oil, ex-North Dakota Indian leader forms marijuana firm

Oil drillers already have to follow state, federal and tribal laws, according to Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council.

“Additional layers of bureaucracy is costly and time-consuming,” said Ness, whose group represents more than 500 companies working in the oil patch. “This will significantly impact development. You can’t continue to pile on these burdens and not impact development.”

North Dakota is the nation’s No. 2 oil producer behind Texas. The reservation alone produces more than 300,000 barrels daily, or about equal to Colorado, the nation’s seventh-biggest oil producer.

The west segment of the reservation is home to about 1,000 tribal members and is the busiest region for drilling — nine of the 77 oil rigs operating Wednesday in North Dakota were drilling on the reservation, and most of those were near Mandaree.

“We are the heartbeat of the Bakken,” said Harriet Goodiron, the new commission’s general manager.

The commission currently is crafting its own regulations regarding oil drilling, though many already are on the books but are not being enforced, she said. Rules should be in place next month and six tribal compliance officers, who are to be funded from fees and fines, will enforce them, Goodiron said.

“If they are going to work here, they are going to take care of our land,” she said.

Goodiron said several companies have inquired about the commission’s new requirements and most seem supportive.

“The rest are getting their lawyers on us,” she said. “We’re not going to take those threats. They are going to follow our sovereign laws or they are not going to be here. If they want to leave, that’s fine.”

This article was written by James Macpherson from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


  1. But you sure have no problem taking all the royalty checks. Stop whining already.

  2. Sounds like dirty Indian’s scamming for more money. They always want more but are unwilling to earn it themselves.

  3. There not getting a big enough cut

  4. Yeah, sure- screw up the one good thing you have going, dummies.

  5. If they were so worried about taking care of their land, you would think they would clean up the dump known as Mandaree. It’s all about more $

  6. Yea I like the subsidies for housing they get and it looks like trash. It’s been how many years pull the plug on that free money

  7. I bet they’ll drink to that

  8. We’re sick and tired of the lazy ass Indians that you have to employ if you want to conduct business on the Rez, the lazy basturds Know they have to be hired.

  9. Give them a case of Budweiser. That will shut them up.

  10. It’s their land, if you don’t like it leave !

  11. Wow some of these comments are about as ignorant as the ones commenting them….not every native recieves oil money and not all natives are alcoholics, if your going to comment at least get ur facts straight….and no I am not native but married into a native family and have native children some with degrees and one a hard worker within the oil business and another with his own contracting business all are non alcoholics, and very smart native grand children…make sure you know what your talking about before you comment.

    • Of course thee are good natives. I have however seen how they can be when ur on their land and have never been impressed. The general population drives by mandaree or even new town. And sees the conditions. Heck just to drive on there land is what 1000 dollars. BS

    • $2,000! For me!
      $1,000 for DOT sticker (per vehicle).
      $1,000 business license.
      $1,000 fine for neither.

    • The tribe has gotten over $4B in tax revenue. Plus they don’t want qualified labor. It costs a welder $5800 dollars at least to go work for a 100% native owned company. The money is there. The problems are internal.

    • I am talking about the comments in regards to drinking Indians and royalties….not everyone is as you see them….the business part of it in regards to the oil business I agree with some of those comments as i have always said this tribe should be rich by now and have so much for their people and others …but I was directing my comments towards the derragatory remarks, and yes I believe it’s internal always has been always will be unfortunately, just as it is in our government and higher ups….

  12. Worse that happens you will have to avoid the reservations

  13. The natives are most to blame for the prolific mass production of meth

  14. Tribal leaders run drugs and prostitution!

  15. Where were they during the boom nothing! Now that’s it bust they want to enforce rules, what a joke!

  16. So glad I live and work in Texas

  17. Are they mad they aren’t getting a cut from these crimes? Oh. That’s right. They get their cut up front. $1000 for a d.o.t. sticker and $1000 business license to drive and work on the rez. Give me a break, you crooks.

  18. Yeah, because all that used to be their racket…

  19. I like all that stuff sounds like a party

  20. to little TO Late where were the voices speaking out years agO not Like the problems are new

  21. Tribal leaders are the most corrupt of anyone in the patch. Take 90, pass 10 on to the people.

  22. They’re not fed-up with tankers full of money being generated or the TERO fees being collected every year…

  23. At first I thought this might be a story from The Onion.

  24. Is the tribal yacht for sale yet?