Shutdown would slow oil development on reservation

WILLISTON, N.D. – A federal government shutdown would further stall oil development on federal lands in North Dakota and would stop oil and gas management activities on the Fort Berthold Reservation.

While a government shutdown would affect some oil and gas activities in North Dakota, the majority of the state’s drilling activity is on private or state-owned land and would not be affected.

A lapse in federal appropriations would mean that the Bureau of Land Management “will not process applications for permits to drill and will only maintain minimal staff for inspections and enforcement on currently producing wells,” Jessica Kershaw, spokeswoman for the Department of Interior, said in a statement.

Lynn Helms, director of the North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources, said the shutdown would be one more impediment on drilling in the Dakota Prairie National Grasslands and Fort Berthold areas.

Already, operators have been avoiding drilling on federal lands due to a lengthy permitting process.

The Dakota Prairie Grasslands had zero drilling rigs operating in June and July. Fort Berthold had 22 rigs operating in July of the state’s total rig count of 183, or about 12 percent of the state’s drilling activity.

In the event of a government shutdown, the Bureau of Indian Affairs would need to cease management of oil and gas leasing and compliance, according to the Department of Interior.

The reservation had 1,004 active wells at the end of July, according to the Department of Mineral Resources.

Carson Hood, energy administrator for the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara tribes, could not be reached for comment Monday.

More than half of the Federal Railroad Administration’s employees would be furloughed in the event of a shutdown, but the agency would keep 418 safety essential personnel.

A total of 335 rail inspectors would continue to work to ensure that rail transportation continues to be safe, reliable and functional, the administration said in a statement.

About 70 percent of North Dakota’s oil is transported out of the state by rail.

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