Oklahoma’s seven members of the U.S. Congress sent a letter to the Bureau of Indian Affairs in late September asking the federal agency to restart the rule-making process for oil and gas drilling in Osage County.
As StateImpact has reported, Osage County is the only county in Oklahoma that isn’t monitored by the Corporation Commission, the state’s oil and gas regulator. Mineral rights in Osage County are held in a federal trust for the Osage Nation, and oil and gas drilling is regulated by the BIA.
The Osage Negotiated Rulemaking Commitee revised rules last year after landowners complained about the presence of dangerous gasses near some drilling operations. Basically, there were claims the BIA was doing a poor job in its regulating duties.
As The Journal Record‘s D. Ray Tuttle reports, the state’s congressional delegation says the “proposed changes were rushed and fail to address the original issues:”
Avoiding future litigation by the tribe or other stakeholders should be the BIA’s primary goal in this process,” they wrote. “The best way to do this is to ensure that the new regulations encourage the maximum possible oil and gas development on the nation…”
In an earlier Journal Record story, an attorney for California-based Berkeley GeoImaging LLC said provisions of the proposed rules would give too much regulatory power to the federal government by completely removing the Osage Minerals Council as a regulatory authority:
“There was no way to anticipate what pernicious and onerous regulations could be put forth by the secretary (of the interior) in the future,” [Tara] Righetti said. “By allowing the federal government to effectively regulate oil and gas development in Osage County, the government would determine the legacy of the tribe’s mineral interest.”
Another proposed rule change drilling operators don’t like would delay the start of drilling for several weeks.
The rule is Code of Federal Regulations 25, Part 226.18. It requires a meeting between the operator and landowner. It gives the landowner 30 days to respond to a request from the operator to meet. The meeting takes place and another 10 days must pass before any operations can take place at the well site.
The public comment phase of the rule-making process continues through October.