AMY DALRYMPLE Bismarck Tribune Jul 26, 2017
MANDAREE — North Dakota’s Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation has the ear of the Trump administration, with a second federal official visiting Fort Berthold on Wednesday and pledging to support tribal energy development.
William Bradford, director of the Energy Department’s Office of Indian Energy, told attendees of the MHA Energy Symposium that tribes, not the federal government, should oversee energy development on their lands.
“Who better knows how to manage the waters and air and land within your reservation than you yourself? Is there anyone? I don’t think so,” Bradford said during the event in Mandaree, a tribal community located in the heart of the Bakken.
Visits this week from Bradford and Gavin Clarkson from the Department of Interior come on the heels of an energy roundtable meeting with President Trump attended by MHA leaders.
Tribal Chairman Mark Fox, who had sat across from Trump during the discussion in Washington, said tribal leaders emphasized the best way to encourage more energy development in Indian Country is to defer more regulation to the tribes.
In addition, Fox said the tribes need to be the primary beneficiaries of the energy resources. He said Trump’s reaction was favorable.
“We believe, as a nation, that the door is open as it was under Obama and now it is under Trump to try to do development the right way,” Fox said.
Former U.S. Rep. Earl Pomeroy, who attended the conference to talk on federal tax reform, applauded the federal officials for their comments on tribal sovereignty, regulation challenges and dual taxation inequities.
“I think they got the message,” Pomeroy said.
Fox and other MHA leaders reiterated during the two-day symposium that the tribe should receive a greater share of tax revenue for oil production on the reservation, which is currently split with the state.
“This is our land; those are our resources. The only entity that should be taxing off of economic development and energy development off of trust lands are Indian tribes,” Fox said.
In an interview, Fox said the Tribal Business Council continues to consider options to get more revenue to offset impacts of oil development, including the possibility of leaving a tax sharing agreement with the state.
The issue is going to be a priority for an upcoming August meeting with the MHA Tribal Business Council and Gov. Doug Burgum, Fox said.
North Dakota Petroleum Council President Ron Ness said the state can and should do more to offset energy impacts on Fort Berthold. Ness encouraged tribal leaders to continue working with the governor to find a solution.
“Don’t punish the operators by pushing dual taxation on them,” Ness said.
Fox said his vision is that oil development at Fort Berthold will ultimately raise the standard of living for all 15,627 tribal members and the generations that follow.
“We don’t want to wake up one day and say all that oil and gas and we’re in a worse situation today than we were before the first barrel came out,” Fox said. “That’s a tragedy that we’re trying to avoid.”