Update to June 2013 Report: Environmental Issues in Osage County. “Effectiveness of Oil and Gas Regulatory Oversight of Oil and Gas Operations in Osage County”
On May 11, 2015 in the Federal Register Vol. 80 No. 90, the Department of Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs published a final rule 25 CFR part 226. This rule updated outdated oil and gas rules that were highlighted in the Report. These new rules are the result of over 2 years of public meetings, presentations, numerous comments and countless hours spent by all stakeholders. The rule will become final in 90 days.
The EFD team became involved in this effort on behalf of one of our sponsors The Nature Conservancy and later the Osage County Cattlemen’s Association to submit recommended changes to the rules and particularly how the rules and what would be normal (everywhere except Osage County) industry practices should be enforced. The landowners do not own the mineral rights and the group of landowners EFD worked with fully want a healthy oil and gas industry in Osage County. The Federal Register notice provided BIA’s rational for comments on the proposed they accepted as well as those rejected.
The good news is the updated rule process brought about increased BIA management and regulatory staff, more training, and a commitment to make improvements prior to these rules being published. Small operators are claiming the rules are onerous will “run them out of business.”
On page 27000 of the Federal Register Section 5, Comments to the Proposed Rule section, the BIA stated that “Moreover, this rule brings Osage closer in line to how oil and gas operators are regulated on other Indian and Federal Lands and reflects the availability of new technology and improved industry standards since the regulations were initially promulgated.” The point here is they are closer but they have acknowledged they are not there yet. They have a ways to go, but there are some significant improvements and we appreciate the BIA moving in the right direction.
The BIA rejected our recommendation that they delegate regulatory authority to the state of Oklahoma and they rejected our recommendation they get outside oversight from and independent group like STRONGER. The rules do allow them to adopt in the future BLM onshore orders they should have adopted now, however they did adopt a key Order 6 in dealing with hydrogen sulfide. This is a significant improvement. The rule also provides the superintendent with significant discretionary authority to assure health, safety and the environment is protected.
The BIA is now in the process of conducting a county wide Environmental Impact Statement and is also updating Environmental Assessments they have neglected to conduct for a number of years in compliance with NEPA.
These updates are posted on their website: BIA.GOV
The report from our effort may be found at: EFD Osage Report.
For more information contact:
Tom Williams, twilliams@LEIDLLC.com, 713-201-3866