In 2011, the Osage Nation made history when it signed a $380 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Interior. At the time, it was the largest settlement ever negotiated with a Native American tribe.
As part of that historic settlement, the DOI and BIA were to work with the Osage Minerals Council to form new rules to strengthen 25 C.F.R. Part 226, regarding leasing of the Osage Mineral Estate for oil and gas mining. The rules would ensure that mismanagement of the mineral estate would never happen again.
Osage shareholders have asked for an update on the new rules for more than a decade. Meanwhile, oil and gas production in the Osage has become stagnant.
On Jan. 12, the BIA announced publication of the long-awaited proposed rules. The public can now review and comment on the 71-page document and the DOI will accept comment until March 17.
“The federal government has a trust responsibility to administer the Osage Mineral Estate,” said Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland in a DOI press release. “These proposed revisions secure this special trust asset of the Osage Nation for generations to come through accountability and best industry practices. We look forward to consulting with the Osage Nation and Osage Minerals Council on how we can best fulfill that obligation through this regulation.”
A public meeting has been set for Wednesday, Feb. 8 from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Osage Casino and Hotel in Skiatook. However, Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear urges the public to write in their comments as the meeting is only two-and-a-half hours long and Osage elected officials will need time to make comment.
Standing Bear said he, Assistant Principal Chief RJ Walker, and OMC Chairman Everett Waller, spoke briefly with Newland about the proposed regulations on Jan. 11.
“I told him my questions will be brief at that hearing, which is do these regulations make room for the Osage Minerals Council to take over partial or full management of the Osage Mineral Estate under BIA supervision,” Standing Bear said. “He did not answer.”
According to the DOI, the “proposed revisions reflect modern industry standards, advances in technologies and changes to operations within the Osage Mineral Estate since the last substantive revision to the regulations in 1974. The proposed revisions make Osage Mineral Estate energy growth consistent with operations across Indian Country.”
According to the DOI, the proposed regulations would:
- Update bonding requirements to better protect the Osage Nation in cases of operator default which would also reduce the proliferation of abandoned and orphan wells.
- Update the settlement values of oil and gas for royalty purposes to promote consistency in production valuation, prevent lessees and purchasers from engaging in price manipulation, and ensure that the Osage Nation receives the full value of its oil and gas.
- Require royalty and production reports to be submitted to the Office of Natural Resources Revenues (ONRR) using ONRR’s eCommerce reporting system and include all other provisions necessary for ONRR to assume the Bureau of Indian Affairs Osage Agency’s royalty management program.
- Impose detailed requirements for oil and gas measurement to improve production accountability, including through the incorporation by reference of relevant standards.
- Align assessments and civil penalties under the regulations with those imposed for the same violations throughout the rest of Indian Country.
OMC Chairman Everett Waller said past councils have worked with each new administration on the proposed rules, but he would have to wait until after the public meeting in February before he could make comment on how the council feels about the proposed rules.
Standing Bear said everyone needs to read and re-read the proposed rules.
“What I don’t like is the fact that they are issuing regulations that are so inclusive of what I think is the Osage Minerals Council business. It’s like the federal government is showing everyone they don’t have faith in the capabilities of our Osage Minerals Council,” Standing Bear said. “I don’t see the federal government going to Conoco Phillips and telling them how to run their business.
“To say it’s trust responsibility, does that mean we can’t do it? Is that what that means? I don’t think so. I think it means they’re obligated to support us. Money and technical assistance.”
How to submit comment on the Proposed Regulations:
- Federal Rulemaking Portal: https://www.regulations.gov. Enter ‘‘RIN 1076– AF59’’ in the search box and click ‘‘Search.’’ Follow the instructions for sending comments.
- Mail: U.S. Department of the Interior, Eastern Oklahoma Region, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Attn: Regional Director, P.O. Box 8002, Muskogee, OK 74402. All submissions must include the words ‘‘Bureau of Indian Affairs’’ or ‘‘BIA’’ and ‘‘RIN 1076–AF59.’’
- Hand Delivery/Courier: U.S. Department of the Interior, Eastern Oklahoma Region, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Attn: Regional Director, 3100 W Peak Boulevard, Muskogee, OK 74402.
- Public Meeting: The BIA is holding a public meeting on the Proposed Rule on Wednesday, February 8, 2023, from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. central time at the Osage Casino and Hotel, 5591 W Rogers Boulevard, Skiatook, OK 74070.
- The Department will also accept written comments from the public through March 17, 2023.
For all questions, contact Oliver Whaley, Director, Office of Regulatory Affairs and Collaborative Action, Office of the Assistant Secretary—Indian Affairs, (202) 738– 6065, firstname.lastname@example.org.