Revenue from Indian energy production dropped 22 percent in 2015

A drilling well in Indian Country. Photo from Bureau of Indian Affairs

Indian energy production revenues dropped 22 percent in fiscal year 2015, the Interior Department reported.

A total of $852.7 million was disbursed to 34 tribes and nearly 36,000 individual Indians, the Office of Natural Resources Revenue said. The figure represents a significant decline from the record $1.1 billion seen in fiscal year 2014.

It's also lower than the $932.9 million in revenues that tribes and individual Indians saw in fiscal year 2013. But it's significantly higher than the $717.5 million from 2012.

“These revenues remain a critical source of non-tax funding to states, American Indian tribes and individual Indian mineral owners," director Greg Gould said in a press release.

Indian Country wasn't the only segment that saw a decline in 2015. Revenues from federal lands dropped 31 percent from the year prior, according to the data.

The reason? Lower energy prices -- DOI said the average price of oil declined 43 percent while the average natural gas prices declined 28 percent.

Despite the drop in prices, energy production in Indian Country has increased as a whole thanks to development on the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation in North Dakota, according to DOI and the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The tribe has driven growth in crude oil production in the last decade.

"Crude oil production from Indian lands increased 460% from 10 million barrels in FY 2003 to 56 million barrels in FY 2014," the EIA stated. "Almost all of this increase took place since FY 2010 (Figure 2, Table 3), and mostly in North Dakota (primarily the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in the western part of the state, part of the Bakken/Three Forks tight oil play)."

Republicans are hoping to spur even more development with H.R.538, the Native American Energy Act. The bill, which passed the House in October over the objections of the Obama administration, streamlines the federal review process to make it easier for tribes and individual Indians to host energy projects on their lands.

S.209, the Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act Amendments, also seeks to give tribes a greater say in development. It was approved by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee in February and awaits consideration on the Senate floor.

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

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