Feb. 12, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

North Dakota Looks to Extend Pipelines Through Tribal Land to Reduce Natural Gas Burn-Offs

On the Southern Ute Indian lands in Colorado, companies are waiting for approval of 81 right-of-way agreements that must be OK’d by the Bureau of Indian Affairs before the Bureau of Land Management issues a permit. More than half of those agreements were approved by the tribe seven years ago, according to acting tribe council Chairman James Olguin.

“In each instance, these pending transactions have already undergone environmental reviews by the tribe’s natural resource department,” he told lawmakers last month.

Under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (PL 109-58) tribes and the secretary of the Interior are required to enter into a Tribal Energy Resource Agreement. Barrasso’s bill would set a time limit for the Interior Department’s review of those agreements.

Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif., said revising the multiple layers of federal bureaucracy on Indian lands could be something to consider.

“I think that’s something that we potentially might want to look at and work on,” Lowenthal said last month while debating a bill (HR 4293) to provide categorical environmental exemptions for natural gas pipeline permits on federal and American Indian lands. Lowenthal opposed that measure because it would cut environmental protections.

Rep. Cynthia M. Lummis, R-Wyo., welcomed Lowenthal’s openness to considering potential jurisdiction issues.

“I’m delighted to hear Mr. Lowenthal say that we have problems in Indian lands with regard to multiple layers of bureaucracy,” she said. “It does transcend just oil and gas production — it goes to grazing and a whole variety of things.”

Republicans have pointed to flaring as a reason for expediting pipeline infrastructure and increasing exports, while Democrats have called for regulations to cut the waste and emissions from burning natural gas. Members from both parties agree that the problem is worse on tribal lands.

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