Oil and gas wells. Photo: John Ciccarelli / Bureau of Land Management

Native Sun News Today: Oglala Sioux Tribe slams 'DAPL-type' project

Oglala Sioux Tribe demands BLM consult on Wyoming fracking

By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News Today
Health & Environment Editor

PINE RIDGE – Concerns about pollution and damage to sacred sites prompted the Oglala Sioux Tribe to demand federal Bureau of Land Management consultation on proposed hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas in the Wyoming portion of unceded 1851 Ft. Laramie Treaty territory, the tribe announced March 25.

The demand comes as the BLM begins preparing a final environmental impact statement for the Converse County Oil and Gas Project on 1.5 million acres around Douglas, Wyoming, where Anadarko Petroleum Co., Chesapeake Energy Corp., Devon Energy, EOG Resources, and SM Energy propose to develop approximately 5,000 oil fracking wells on 1,500 new pads.

“The tribe is greatly concerned about natural gas flaring that will drift over the reservation and directly impact the health of reservation residents, Oglala Sioux Tribal President Troy Scott Weston said.

“These energy companies promise jobs in exchange for poisoning not only the air that we breathe, but also poisoning the water that we drink and depend on for agriculture, irrigation, fishing and hunting, and other uses with toxic contaminates used in hydraulic fracking,” he said in the announcement.

The project promises to create about 8,000 jobs over its 40-year duration. It also could unlock 1.37 billion barrels of oil and 5.79 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

Rallying other tribes to join in the effort to preserve quality of life in the face of proposed new energy development in treaty territory, James Red Willow, who serves as Fifth Member of the Oglala Sioux Tribal Executive Committee, noted, “We have an obligation to protect the next seven generations of our people from environmental harm to their persons and lives.”

Weston likened the need for intertribal cooperation on the issue to the imperative that galvanized more than 400 tribes in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s lawsuit to halt construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline across the Missouri River in 2017.

“It appears we have another DAPL-type of project in the making that must be stopped,” he said.


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His Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, the second largest of all the tribes’, is located approximately 100 miles due west of the Converse County project area and downstream on the Cheyenne River.

Red Willow moved an executive committee resolution on March 21 to seek government-to-government consultation between the tribe and federal officials about the project. The first consultation session was set for April 17 and 18, at the Prairie Winds Casino Hotel Conference Room.

The committee invited cultural resources expert Tim Mentz to make a slide presentation on BLM’s approach to addressing Sioux sacred sites and cultural resources. Arrangements will be made for discounted rates for tribal representatives who plan to attend the talks, the Oglala Sioux Tribe said.

The tribes are not alone in taking the BLM to task for its involvement in stepping up energy development in Wyoming.

On March 26, a coalition of conservation groups announced a victory in a federal court’s ruling three days earlier that declares unlawful BLM management plans allowing coal mining and fracking on over 15 million acres of public land and mineral rights in Montana and Wyoming.

The plans would have paved the way for an expected 10.2 billion tons of coal mining and an expected 18,000 new oil and gas wells.

In the decision, Judge Brian Morris of the District of Montana branded the BLM for “foreclosing consideration of alternatives.” He ordered BLM to review climate change impacts, consider options and improve accounting of carbon and methane pollution impacts from coal, oil, and gas.

“The court rightly recognized the fundamental disconnect between the need to rein in carbon pollution and the way BLM has proposed to manage our public lands and minerals,” said Kyle Tisdel, attorney doe the Western Environmental Law Center, which filed the challenge in U.S. District Court in Great Falls on behalf of the Western Organization of Resource Councils, Montana Environmental Information Center, Powder River Basin Resource Council, Northern Plains Resource Council, the Sierra Club, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“Considering the scope of these resource management plans, which cover an area that produces over 40 percent of the nation’s coal and vast amounts of oil and gas, they represent one of the best opportunities the Department of Interior – and really our country – has to curb runaway climate change,” he said. “We hope BLM’s second chance will lead to better action.”

Contact Talli Nauman at talli.nauman@gmail.com

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