Tribe Says Oil Tax Changes Don’t Go Far Enough

Three Affiliated Tribes Chairman Tex Hall speaks Tuesday, May 7, 2013, at the Oil and Gas Expo in New Town, N.D. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

NEW TOWN, N.D. – A new tribal oil tax agreement is a “huge improvement” but still contains bad language that doesn’t recognize tribal sovereignty, Three Affiliated Tribes Chairman Tex Hall said Tuesday.

“I do not believe the state of North Dakota has regulatory jurisdiction over the tribe,” Hall said during the first day of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation Oil and Gas Expo, prompting applause from the crowd.

North Dakota lawmakers approved House Bill 1198 on Friday that establishes guidelines for the governor to renegotiate an agreement with the tribes that would split oil tax revenues equally, sending more money to the Fort Berthold Reservation.

Currently, the state collects 80 percent of some of the oil tax revenue and the reservation receives 20 percent.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed the bill Monday, but he still needs to meet with tribal leadership to renegotiate the 2008 agreement.

Hall said in an interview Tuesday he’s not sure if he will sign the agreement if some of the language he objects to can’t be renegotiated.

“There are some serious misunderstandings by state legislators who think this is their tax money,” Hall said. “It’s our oil that you’re taxing and then nothing’s coming back.”

During the expo, Tribal Vice Chairman Fred Fox said the new agreement is progress, but he still thinks the tribe should get more tax revenue.

“It’s something that we’ll take inch by inch, but we’re not satisfied,” Fox said. “I think we should be getting 100 percent of that tax, not 50 percent.”

The expo, with the theme, “Sovereignty by the Barrel,” continues today and will conclude with a groundbreaking ceremony for the tribal-owned Thunder Butte Refinery near Makoti.

Protesters gather Tuesday, May 7, 2013, in New Town, N.D., to show their opposition for the Mandan Hidatsa and Arikara National Oil and Gas Expo. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

About 20 people protested the expo, with neon signs such as “Get the frack out of here,” “Tribal members need homes” and “Opposed to refinery.”

Juliane Gillette of New Town, a member of a group called Save Our Aboriginal Resources, said she and others worry about effects on the environment and object to how tribal leadership is managing the oil development.

“They’re representing the oil companies right now and they’re not representing the people,” Gillette said.