TULSA — With oil and gas production still down across Osage County, the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs is rooting for local producers.
Addressing more than 100 attendees at Osage Casino Nov. 14 as part of the annual Oil and Gas Summit, Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Tara Mac Lean Sweeney acknowledged the unique challenges facing petroleum production in Osage County and committed to helping better address them.
“I want to continue to work with the Osage Nation and Osage Minerals Council on issues that impact development,” Sweeney said. “I have extended my hand in partnership to work with communities across the country to empower them. I am doing that today in that same spirit.”
To further emphasize that commitment to development and facilitating tribal energy sovereignty, Sweeney reiterated that her office will prioritize implementing the final rules for the Tribal Energy Resource Agreement. The public comment period closed in September and the final rule is scheduled for publication in the Federal Register by Dec. 31.
The Osage Minerals Council has not decided whether to pursue such an agreement but has discussed the possibility both publicly with shareholders and behind closed doors with federal officials.
Although the American burying beetle is outside the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ purview, Sweeney also pledged to relay producers’ concerns to her counterparts at the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife. The insect, which has delayed the permitting process for many producers, is under consideration for possible reclassification off of the endangered species list.
Sweeney touted Indian Country’s growth from energy development in recent years as proof of her office’s commitment to facilitating self-reliance. According to the Assistant Secretary, tribal energy revenue is up 105 percent over the last three years, while oil and gas development specifically on federal land is up 12 percent.
The national growth rate drew pointed comparisons among attendees to the sharp oil and gas production decline in Osage County. As one panelist noted, production across the county is down 46 percent over the last six years outside the carbon dioxide-enhanced recovery efforts in the Burbank field overseen first by Chaparral and now by the 2019 Producer of the Year, Perdure Petroleum.
“It’s a different story here than what you shared what’s going on federal lands,” former Osage Producers Association President Shane Mattson said, addressing Sweeney immediately after her remarks.
“Burbank alone can’t fix this. We as producers are going out of business because we can’t deploy capital fast enough. We need permits to take two months, not a year. We need workover orders to happen in days and emergency permits to happen verbally.
“We as producers need to be part of this conversation. There’s so much movement there (DC) that nothing comes down to help us in the real-world form.”
Other long-time area producers and engineers shared similar frustrations as part of a roundtable discussion to close out the summit. In addition to the challenges presented by the American burying beetle, additional regulations regarding seismic data collection and access to records have made it too expensive and difficult to drill for oil and gas in Osage County, they said.
“I’ve had several businesses refuse to come up here because they can’t get insurance on their equipment,” Charles Wickstrom said. “The industry view right now is to do business anywhere but here.”