Boom in Native American oil complicates Biden climate push

Boom in Native American oil complicates Biden climate push


NEW TOWN, N.D. (AP) — On oil well pads carved from the wheat fields around Lake Sakakawea, hundreds of pump jacks slowly bob to extract 100 million barrels of crude annually from a reservation shared by three Native American tribes.

About half their 16,000 members live on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation atop one of the biggest U.S. oil discoveries in decades, North Dakota’s Bakken shale formation.

The drilling rush has brought the tribes unimagined wealth -- more than $1.5 billion and counting -- and they hope it will last another 20 to 25 years. The boom also propelled an almost tenfold spike in oil production from Native American lands since 2009, federal data shows, complicating efforts by President Joe Biden to curb carbon emissions.

Burning of oil from tribal lands overseen by the U.S. government now produces greenhouse gases equivalent to about 12 million vehicles a year, according to an Associated Press analysis. But Biden exempted Native American lands from a suspension of new oil and gas leases on government-managed land in deference to tribes’ sovereign status.

A judge in Louisiana temporarily blocked the suspension June 15, but the administration continues to develop plans that could extend the ban or make leases more costly.

With tribal lands now producing more than 3% of U.S. oil and huge reserves untapped, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland — the first Native American to lead a U.S. cabinet-level agency — faces competing pressures to help a small number of tribes develop their fossil fuels while also addressing climate change that affects all Native communities.

“We’re one of the few tribes that have elected to develop our energy resources. That’s our right,” tribal Chairman Mark Fox told AP at the opening of a Fort Berthold museum and cultural center...

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