Osage Minerals Council on Administration Directives Impacting Tribal Nations: Be Mindful of Tribal Voices and Harm in Creating Barriers to Energy Development in Indian Country
In the first two weeks of the new Biden-Harris administration, federal officials issued several executive actions and statements related to tribal sovereignty, tribal consultation and climate change. In light of these actions and statements, the Osage Minerals Council calls upon the Biden administration to continue to listen to the voices of tribal officials from tribes that rely upon conventional energy production- like the Osage Nation--to develop their tribal economies.
On January 20, 2021, Acting Secretary of the Interior Scott de la Vega issued Secretarial Order No. 3395, which suspended the delegated authority of regional and local Interior officials from making certain decisions related to fossil fuels for 60 days. Under the Secretarial Order, Interior officials are prohibited from issuing any fossil fuel authorization, including approval of leases and permits to drill. While such Secretarial Orders are common when a new president is sworn in from a different party from the outgoing president to prevent last-minute decisions from becoming effective, this Secretarial Order caused great concern among the Osage Minerals Council, Osage producers, Osage headright holders, and tribes across the country with conventional energy interests, as it made no exception for fossil fuel authorizations on tribal lands.
On January 25 after hearing from many tribal leaders, including the Osage Minerals Council-the Department clarified that the Secretarial Order does not apply to tribal and individual Indian lands.
"We are thankful that federal officials listened to us and quickly clarified this order," said Osage Minerals Council Chairman Andrew Yates. "And while we are encouraged by the administration's quick response to remedy the concerns of Tribal leaders about federal fossil fuel authorizations, the Osage Minerals Council is committed to developing a strong relationship with Secretary-Nominee Debra Haaland and other Interior officials to ensure the Interior fulfills its obligations under the 1906 Osage Allotment Act when other mineral development issues arise."
In addition to the Secretarial Order on federal approvals over fossil fuels, the Biden administration issued two other actions that could impact the work of the Osage Minerals Council-actions that highlight the administration's position on tribal consultation and climate change. On January 26, President Biden expanded upon and formalized his commitment to listening to tribal leaders by signing his "Memorandum on Tribal Consultation and Strengthening Nation-to-Nation Relationships" for the heads of Executive Departments and agencies. In this Memorandum the administration states that is must fulfill the United States "solemn promises" to Tribal Nations in order to address crises that disproportionately harm Native Americans, including health, economic, racial justice and climate crises.
In order to fulfill the United States' "solemn promises," the Memorandum underscores that Native Americans are best served when "Tribal governments are empowered to lead their communities, and when Federal officials speak with and listen to Tribal leaders in formulating Federal policy that affects Tribal Nations." To ensure this position is implemented, the Memorandum directs the head of each federal agency to submit "detailed plan of actions" the agency will take to implement tribal consultation policies and directives to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and notes that the Tribal consultation plan itself will be developed after consultation with Tribal Nations and Tribal officials.
On January 27, President Biden issued his "Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad"—a broad statement with several directives that specifically mentions Tribal Nations and potentially impacts the Osage Minerals Council's activities and the Osage Mineral Estate, including:
- A directive to the Secretary of the Interior to engage with Tribal authorities regarding the development and management of renewable and conventional energy resources on Tribal lands.
- A directive to the Secretary of the Interior to pause new oil and natural gas leases on public lands pending a comprehensive review and reconsideration of Federal oil and gas permitting and leasing practices, but clarifying in a statement from the Department of the Interior the same day that "[t]he order does not restrict energy activities on private or state lands, or lands that the United States holds in trust or restricted status for Tribes or individual Indians." https://www.doi.gov/pressreleases/fact-sheet- president-biden-take-action-uphold-commitment-restore-balance-public-lands
- Establishes within the Executive Office of the President a White House Environmental Justice Interagency Council comprised of federal agency heads, including the Secretary of the Interior, to develop a strategy to address current and historic environmental injustice by consulting with the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council and with local environmental justice leaders, including the remediation and reduiction of legacy pollution.