Environment | Politics

Audio: Subcommittee hearing on fracking on tribal lands

The House Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs held a hearing this morning on fracking on tribal lands.

The Bureau of Land Management is considering rules to regulate hydraulic fracturing, a controversial energy-processing technique that's commonly known as fracking. At issue is whether tribes have been adequately consulted and whether the agency has authority over Indian lands.

Most of the tribal witnesses said they haven't been consulted. Tex Hall, the chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, pointed out that the BLM official who said tribes have been included in the process didn't stay for the remainder of the hearing.

"It's disrespectful. It should be unlawful. He should be reprimanded," Hall said of the BLM witness, Tim Spisak, who is the deputy assistant director for minerals and realty management at the agency.

"He's a lackey," Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), the chairman of the subcommittee, said later in the hearing. Young criticized the Obama administration for not allowing a higher-ranking official to testify.

Tribal leaders also disputed the BLM's authority to impose the fracking regulations on reservations. The agency has unlawfully included tribal and trust lands in the definition of "public" lands, they said.

"Indian lands are not public lands. Indian lands are for the exclusive use and benefit of Indian tribes," Irene Cuch, the chairwoman of the Ute Tribe, told the subcommittee.

The BLM rules are currently being reviewed by the White House Office of Management and Budget. Toward the end of the hearing, Young said he would try to block the proposal through the appropriations process.

Audio from the hearing can be accessed below:
Opening Statements

Panel I
Testimony | Q&A
Tim Spisak
Deputy Assistant Director, Minerals and Realty Management, Bureau of Land Management

Panel II
Testimony | Q&A
The Honorable Irene Cuch
Chairwoman, Ute Indian Tribe Business Council

The Honorable TJ Show
Chairman, Blackfeet Tribal Business Council

The Honorable Mike Olguin
Vice Chair, Southern Ute Indian Tribal Council

The Honorable Tex “Red Tipped Arrow” Hall
Chairman, MHA Nation – Three Affiliated Tribes

Panel III
Testimony | Q&A
The Honorable Scott Russell
Vice President, National Congress of American Indians

Wilson Groen
President and CEO, Navajo Nation Oil & Gas Company Exploration and Production

The Honorable Wesley Martel
Council Vice Chairman, Shoshone Business Council

Larry Decoteau
Tribal Council Representative, District 4, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians

Committee Notice:
Oversight Hearing on "Bureau of Land Management’s Hydraulic Fracturing Rule’s Impacts on Indian Tribal Energy Development" (April 19, 2012)

Related Stories:
Indian and Alaska Native Affairs Subcommittee hearing (4/18)
House hearings on tribal energy and Pascua Yaqui land bill (4/10)
North Dakota tribe asks Congress to block fracking proposal (3/30)
Blackfeet Nation brings fracking technology to reservation (3/28)

Join the Conversation