|The following story was written and reported by Talli Nauman, Native Sun News Health & Environment Editor. All content © Native Sun News.
Hydraulic fracturing — the controversial process behind the spread of natural gas drilling — is enabling oil companies to reach previously inaccessible reserves in North Dakota, triggering a turnaround not only in the state’s fortunes, but also in domestic energy production. North Dakota now ranks second behind only Texas in oil output nationwide. The downside is waste — lots of it. Companies produce millions of gallons of salty, chemical-infused wastewater, known as brine, as part of drilling and fracking each well. Drillers are supposed to inject this material thousands of feet underground into disposal wells, but some of it isn’t making it that far.
Indian Country weighs bans on fracking
By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News
Health & Environment Editor
FT. YATES, N. D. — Last Real Indians (LRI) and Honor the Earth are among Native American organizations calling for pressure on tribal councils to approve anti-fracking resolutions, as efforts increase to drill for fossil fuel in treaty territory.
Fracking – or hydraulic fracturing – is the so-called unconventional petroleum extraction process now required for more than 90 percent of the wells in the United States to be productive.
“This relatively new form of extracting oil and natural gas is generating serious environmental impacts, depletion of aquifers and negatively impacting human health,” said Matt Remle in the LRI release of a sample resolution to ban fracking.
From 1947 to 2010, more than 1 million wells were fracked, according to environmental engineer Greg Kozera, author of The Truth about Hydrofracking and the Next Great American Boom.
Fracking and fracking wastewater treatment are banned in numerous jurisdictions, including the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Nation and the Onondaga Nation.
However, “Native and First Nations communities have remained vulnerable to fracking and frack wastewater treatment,” Honor the Earth said in inviting people to lobby for moratoriums at the tribal level.
Kozera, on the other hand, criticized ban proponents for “acting strictly on fear and emotion, instead of thinking and applying a little human logic and common sense.”
A ban “would force us to buy our oil and gas from places like Russia and Iran,” he said in the book praised by Independent Petroleum Association of America President Barry Russel as a “great first read for those wanting to understand hydraulic fracturing.”
The alternative Kozera envisions includes an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 wells to frack the Bakken Formation and adjacent stores of oil and gas in Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota – up from the area’s current boom of 8,000, one-eighth of which are located on the Ft. Berthold Indian Reservation.
In 35 years in the fracking industry and as a manager for one of its leaders, Halliburton, Kozera says his operations have never caused an earthquake, and they don’t threaten health or water supplies, he adds.
“We hear about hazardous chemicals,” he notes. “If these chemicals were dangerous, wouldn’t the workers on the frack jobs be hurt?” he asks.
“I can honestly say that donuts and video games hurt and kill more people than fracking. I have never been to a funeral of someone killed by fracking,” he continues.
Still, Honor the Earth contends that wastewater produced “is polluted with hazardous fracking chemicals, oil and hydrocarbons, radioactive radon, and biocides, and there is no process or technique for treating this water.”
Agencies of the U.S. Department of Interior currently are in the process of examining the need for mandatory disclosure of the fracking chemicals, as well as revisions in fracking regulations.
Meanwhile, in the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, which spans North and South Dakota’s Sioux and Corson counties, respectively, lessors have obtained the rights to 200,000 acres in the reservation and surrounding county areas for oil and gas exploration, as reported in the local Teton Times newspaper.
In response, the tribe issued the “Standing Rock Nation’s Policy Statement on Oil and Fracking,” excerpted here:
While the oil and gas industries provide significant opportunities for developing economies, they also bring substantial risks that need to be managed and mitigated by governments (tribal, state, and federal), and their communities.
The limited nature of oil and gas resources make it particularly important that governments’ policies and codes ensure that the benefits of their production contribute to the development of the human, social, and physical capital needed for sustainable development. Unfortunately, in certain cases, neither investment nor oil revenues have been able to guarantee safety among our water, lands, cultural, tribal resources, economic growth or poverty reduction within our neighboring reservations.
Thus, the presence of major oil and gas industries has been associated with a variety of negative social and environmental outcomes. The so-called “Paradox of Plenty,” where resource development fails to generate the sustainable benefits expected, is one of the most urgent challenges.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Council on Feb. 1, 2011 passed a motion to prohibit hydro fracturing on the Standing Rock Sioux Nation. All leases for oil and minerals on trust lands for Standing Rock Sioux Tribe are handled within BIA, in working with Division of Energy and Mineral Development.
The list of prohibited activities include the regulation of handling materials often associated with special wastes from oil and gas production and dumping in the waters of Standing Rock.
We are here to protect the land, waters, and the health of our residents and the environment for now and future generations to enjoy on Standing Rock.
The tribe noted in the statement that it can enter into tax collection agreements with the states of North and South Dakota for oil & gas development within the boundaries of the Standing Rock Reservation.
“Chairman [Dave] Archambault is exploring all avenues in preparing for the impact of oil development,” it said, adding that options under consideration include entering into oil-and-gas accords with the states.
“As the oil and gas business is both a corporate and a profit-first driven industry, we encourage that all land owners attain proper consultation before signing any land lease agreements,” it concluded.
“We have learned from the land-grab activities that occurred in the early days of the Bakken oil boom on the Fort Berthold Reservation, where hundreds of millions of dollars were lost due to unethical practices by groups/corporations/companies claiming to streamline the negotiating process for the leasing agreements of tribal member allotees.
“Many members were scammed into lease agreements, only to receive a fraction of the profits that were to be yielded from their lands. We do not wish to see this happen to our members here on Standing Rock,” it warned.
Honor the Earth recommended that interested parties refer to a guidebook produced by the non-profit, national Food & Water Watch, called How to Get Your Resolution Passed to Ban Fracking.
The draft tribal resolution looks like this:
Resolution Number XXXX
WHEREAS, (Insert tribal constitution & bylaws adopted to protect and promote the general welfare of tribal citizens); and
WHEREAS, (Insert tribal constitution & bylaws adopted to regulate and license all business and professional activities conducted upon the reservation); and
WHEREAS, (Insert tribal constitution & bylaws adopted extending jurisdiction over current and future tribal lands);
WHEREAS, the (Tribal Nation) is responsible for protecting Mother Earth from any pollutants that may cause harm to its citizens, land, water, and air; and
WHEREAS, Section 106 of National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) requires federal agencies to consider the effects of their actions on historic properties and to seek comments from the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP); and
WHEREAS. the oil industry is engaging in a process called hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to extract oil that requires the use of hazardous chemicals that could contaminate water resources that are vital and necessary for the tribal citizens livelihood; and
WHEREAS, the fracking process could endanger tribal water resources and the waters of the (name of aquifer) aquifer which is the tribe’s main resource for fresh water on the (Tribal Nation); now
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the (Tribal Nation) prohibits in perpetuity any hydraulic fracturing (fracking) or any other process that is toxic on lands adjoining the (name of aquifer) aquifer or its tributaries, or flowing water that has the potential to channel to the (name of aquifer) aquifer and water resources, lakes, underground springs, and wetlands where tribal citizens reside on or near the (Tribal Nation).
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