Tribal lands ruling: ‘Total chaos’ for oil?

Niina H. Farah | E&E News

A Supreme Court ruling yesterday declaring that nearly half of Oklahoma remains Native American reservation land is causing a stir among some oil executives who are wary of increased federal regulations.

In a 5-4 decision led by Justice Neil Gorsuch, the high court found that 19 million acres of land in the eastern half of the Sooner State was part of the Muscogee (Creek), Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Seminole Nations’ reservations.

Yesterday’s ruling stemmed from a dispute over whether an Oklahoma court had the power to convict Jimcy McGirt, a member of the Creek Nation, on charges of sexual abuse against a child (Greenwire, July 9).

The prospect of Congress taking action offered little comfort to prominent oil executive Dewey Bartlett, a former Tulsa mayor who runs Keener Oil & Gas Co.

“It’s going to be total chaos,” he said.

Bartlett said Congress should fix what he sees as a major problem, but he questioned whether lawmakers from the rest of the country would be willing to take action.

“It’s very unique to Oklahoma. With a lack of real political power, it’s going to be difficult,” he said. “The rest of the states could give a damn.”

The oil industry, Bartlett said, will be concerned about the validity of its leases. He said he is also worried that tribes could impose new taxes or environmental restrictions on developers.

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