Minerals Council

Federal shake-ups could affect BIA Osage Agency

With no information available about two potential federal shake-ups, Councilman Galen Crum channeled “Hogan’s Heroes” to sum up the flow of information from the Department of Interior at the May Osage Minerals Council meeting.

“I know nothing,” he said at the May 16 meeting, affecting a German accent.

Of the two potential changes that could impact the council, one is at the national level while the other is closer to home.

According to a notice published in the Federal Register, the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Office of Management and Budget is soliciting comments through June 8 on what information is collected by the Pawhuska Agency in the leasing process.

Among the documents already required from lessees include a bond, articles of incorporation, certificate of good standing, certificate of limited liability, financial statements, royalty accounting forms and documentation of compliance with the National Environmental Protection Act.

The agency is specifically seeking feedback about how it can enhance the quality and clarity of information collected and how it can minimize the collection burden on lessees.

“The United States has not brought out the new CFR,” Chairman Everett Waller said. “They haven’t rolled it out yet, so what we will promote in Albuquerque on June 5 is the 1906 Act because the big question … is what is an inherently federal function.

Pawhuska Agency Superintendent Robin Phillips was not at the meeting to take questions about the notice. When reached via email, BIA spokeswoman Nedra Darling said the notice had to be published because the approval for the current collection requirements is set to expire.

“The Notice of Information Collection does not revise, modify, or otherwise change any regulations in 25 C.F.R. Part 226,” Darling wrote. “The version of 25 C.F.R. Part 226 that was in effect on April 9, 2018, remains in effect. The regulations have not been revised.”

Meanwhile, when pressed by Councilwoman Cynthia Boone, Pawhuska Agency Deputy Superintendent Richard Winlock said his office did not know any new information about a potential reorganization first announced in January.

According to the proposal, the all agencies under the Department of Interior would be divided into 13 regions with boundaries determined by watersheds and geographic basins rather than state or tribal boundaries. Instead of having a regional office in Muskogee serving half of the state, the BIA would instead have a single regional office to cover all of Oklahoma, plus eastern New Mexico, southern Kansas, southwestern Colorado and all of Texas.

“They have not sent it to us how they’re going to reorganize us,” Winlock said. “I can tell you that much.”

The following day, the Department of Interior sent out a notice that it would have nine listening sessions this summer with the first one scheduled for June 3 in Kansas City as part of the mid-year conference for the National Congress of American Indians. DOI officials are slated to have a session in Oklahoma City on Aug. 7.

In other business, the council approved a resolution to move forward with the installation of a ventilation system for an abandoned well at the Pawhuska High School softball field.

The century-old well near second base has had to be plugged multiple times and caused the school district to delay the start of the 2017-2018 school year by two weeks after a seepage was found in August.

“There’s enough cement down there to build a pyramid,” Waller said. “This gas element … we have reviewed it and the EPA has checked it.”

Work is slated to start June 1 with the goal of having the field be playable in time for the 2018 fast-pitch season.