A three-page document from Sens. Jim Inhofe and James Lankford’s staffs show three proposals for potential legislation to change how oil and gas regulation is performed in the Osage – and it doesn’t involve the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.
With no author attributed, the document titled, “Regulatory Challenges Facing Osage Oil and Gas Estate,” addresses federal trust responsibility, regulatory challenges, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Osage Nation government participation in the regulatory process. For more than a year oil and gas mining has been nearly shut down due to conflicts between the BIA and oil producers on environmental regulations.
A staff member from Sen. Lankford’s office confirmed the proposal came from both senators’ offices on Sept. 8.
According to the three-page document, “The Senate delegation’s key desire is to improve the near-term and long-term regulatory environment for oil and gas development for the benefit of the head-right (sic) owners without jeopardizing the longstanding and appropriate trust relationship between the Federal Government and the Osage.”
The only way to achieve this goal is through federal legislation, according to the document.
The three proposals include:
1) Elect a regulatory program established by the Osage Nation. The program would function in a TERA-like system and is subject to BIA approval.
2) Allow the Osage Minerals Council and Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear to establish a second council with the sole responsibility of regulating oil and gas activities, with help from outside experts.
3) Allow the OMC to retain the BIA as the primary regulatory agency.
The document also notes the proposed legislation would require the BIA to file a report or legal opinion to “determine where current and appropriate lines are drawn for regulatory responsibilities between the federal and state governments on surface lands to clear up any confusion that presently exists.”
As far as the opinions from Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear and the Third Osage Minerals Council on the proposal, Standing Bear and OMC Chairman Everett Waller could not be reached for comment. Minerals Councilwoman Cynthia Boone said she is aware of the proposal and will be discussing it at the OMC meeting Sept. 11, held in the minerals council chambers on the Osage Nation campus in Pawhuska.
“We’re going to do a resolution regarding all of these issues at our Minerals Council meeting this Friday,” Boone said.
[Editor's Note: This story was clarified on Sept. 9, 2015. The proposal did not suggest the BIA would be given more funding if the Osage Minerals Council chose to stay with the BIA.]