SKIATOOK, Okla. — The Osage Nation is another baby step closer toward pursuing a tribal energy rights agreement with the federal government.
Addressing about 30 members of the Osage Shareholders Association at their quarterly meeting, Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear confirmed on Feb. 16 that he and Osage Minerals Council Chairman Everett Waller have co-signed a letter to the Department of Interior to launch the TERA pre-application process. The two branches, along with members of the Osage Nation Congress, met in a joint session in early February to discuss the pre-application process and each branch’s role in the matter.
“We can streamline this and get this place moving, but it will take a while,” Standing Bear said. “A lot of people have already left and taken a lot of institutional knowledge with them. We have to find a way to remarket this place to get people to come back and produce with us.”
Released in December, the new TERA regulations lay out parameters for tribes to pursue self-governance agreements for some or all of the services associated with energy development, including oil and gas drilling.
Along with indicating interest in the pre-application process, the joint letter asks for a formal consultation session and answers to questions that came up repeatedly during the TERA comment period, including just how much money will be made available for tribes looking to take on duties currently handled by the federal government.
“We don’t want to get the right to do something, but no money to do it with,” Standing Bear said. “Otherwise, we will be tapping our gaming revenue even more to cover those costs.”
A separate, albeit related letter, was also sent to the Department of Interior’s solicitor’s office requesting clarification about what functions can be delegated to tribes under the new TERA rules. That response is expected in mid-March.
Several Osage Minerals Council members in attendance reiterated to OSA members that the pre-application process is a step forward and the answers from the Department of Interior will help shape their actions moving forward, including whether to look at setting up its own oil and gas production company.
“It’s important to me that we take the money from our minerals estate and look at long term energy processes to benefit not just our shareholders, but the Osage Nation as a whole,” Margo Gray said. “We’re here because this goal is the same.”