According to a recent Bureau of Indian Affairs’ evaluation, Bluestem Ranch is too environmentally unfit to be taken into trust. Unfit due to oil and gas production sites. Yet, according to previous BIA evaluations the ranch had been fit enough to release oil companies from their bonds.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Regulations require oil companies to purchase bonds against damages occurring to land during their work. The Bureau is NOT to release the producer from their responsibilities until the land is judged to be fit.
It does not seem reasonable that a production site is environmentally fit for release of bonding, but not environmentally fit for trust status? It is the same trustee making the judgments. It is the same sites being judged. I suppose there could be a few reasons for this apparent incongruity.
The Bureau was in error when their previous evaluations prompted them to release producers from those sites on the ranch.
- The Bureau was in error when their most recent evaluation prompted them to refuse trust status to the tribe.
- The Bureau has no standard tools for environmental evaluation other than ad hoc, catch as catch can, by whomever, and whenever.
- The Bureau has different evaluation “standards” depending on whether it is the tribe or some other entity/person prompting the Environmental Assessment. (EA)
- The Bureau has uniform evaluation “standards” but apply them differently depending on whether it is the tribe or some other entity/person prompting the environmental evaluation.
The Bureau has standard environmental evaluation tools which have changed over time.
The only ethical and legal reason for the site to be judged “fit” for producers and “unfit” for the tribe would be that the environmental assessment tools “changed over time.” And, it is necessary to change with changing times. However, folks can get caught in a time warp.
If a production site is within regulatory standards at the time of production, and the standards change, placing that site outside the new standards, it would be wrong to hold anyone accountable. The U.S. Constitution also disagrees with this type of policing. They call it ex post facto law. (Clause 3 of Article I, Section 9 of the United States Constitution)
“ex post facto law. A law that makes illegal an act that was legal when committed, increases the penalties for an infraction after has been committed, or changes the rules of evidence to make conviction easier. The Constitution prohibits the making of ex post facto law.” (google)
But, would it not be reasonable, for the trustee to anticipate and plan for such a contingency? It’s not like the concept is new. It has been around since 1787. And, there is a remedy for time-warps caused by ex post facto laws. It is known as a “Grandfather Clause.”
“… Grandfather is a clause exempting certain classes of people or things from the requirements of a piece of legislation affecting their previous rights, privileges, or practices” (google)
“… a clause creating an exemption based on circumstances previously existing.” (google)
“… part of a law which says that the law does not apply to certain people and things because of conditions that existed before the law was passed.” (google)
I would like to encourage our Osage Minerals Council, Congress and Executive Branch to fight the Bureau. Let our Government know that the people are behind them and support them on this issue of buying back our land. It is a step toward making us whole again.