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Oil company facing tribal opposition proposes more wells

September 25, 2018

This photo taken April 12, 2018, shows Slawson Exploration operating a rig near Creel Bay on Lake Sakakawea, N.D. The oil company is facing tribal opposition for drilling wells on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation close to Lake Sakakawea proposes to drill 23 new wells near the Missouri River reservoir. (Tom Stromme /The Bismarck Tribune via AP)

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — An oil company facing tribal opposition to drilling wells on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation close to Lake Sakakawea has proposed 23 more wells near the Missouri River reservoir.

The federal Bureau of Land Management is reviewing drilling permit applications from Slawson Exploration, some for wells less than 1,000 feet from the lake, The Bismarck Tribune reported.

A federal judge last year halted the drilling of proposed wells when the Three Affiliated Tribes argued they should be farther from the lake under tribal policy that requires a 1,000-foot setback and tribal approval for drilling within half a mile of the lake.

The lake is the tribe’s primary source of drinking water, and also a tribal cultural and recreational resource.

The company challenged the order and the judge reversed it . The company is drilling on private land on the reservation in northwestern North Dakota and developing minerals under the lake that are not owned by American Indians. The company said those wells should be complete by late November.

“There’s no application of that tribal law to these projects,” said Eric Sundberg, Slawson’s vice president of environmental and regulatory affairs.

The tribe continues to fight the earlier ruling, maintaining that tribal regulations should apply to all oil development within its reservation boundaries.

“If there’s a contamination or impact to occur ... we’re all going to be impacted one way or another,” tribal Chairman Mark Fox said.

The BLM is accepting comments on the new drilling permit applications through Oct. 5.

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Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com

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