Bureau of Land Management authorizes year-round drilling in Converse County, tribes opposed
CONVERSE COUNTY, WYO. — After a seven-year environmental analysis, the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management has given authorization for year-round oil and gas drilling in Converse County, Wyoming.
The Converse County Oil and Gas Project allows for the development of up to 5,000 new oil and natural gas wells inside a 1.5 million-acre project area. This project is expected to generate roughly 8,000 jobs and $18 to $28 billion in federal revenues.
“Projects like this strengthen the energy independence of the United States while creating jobs and fostering economic development,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Casey Hammond.
The Oglala Sioux Tribe, a member of the Great Plains Tribal Water Alliance, states that regulators failed to fairly consult local tribes during their decision-making process. In a Letter of Protest filed in late August 2020, OST wrote that Stephanie Connolly, the BLM Authorizing Officer responsible for preparing the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), “failed to fulfill the intent and process outlined in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and implementing regulations.”
“The BLM is hereby put on both actual and constructive notice that the OST has never ceded its 1851 Treaty lands or mineral rights in Wyoming, and has rejected the monetary award in Docket 74 since 1983, and still claims ownership of all lands, minerals, water and other natural resources within the Article 16, 1868 Treaty un-ceded territory in Wyoming, that includes all of Converse County, and also protests the approval of the FEIS for the Converse County Oil & Gas Project on this basis,” the OST wrote in their protest letter.
The tribe says that the BLM failed to address their submitted comments, withheld their meeting notes, and speculated on Sioux tribal origin and migration theory, among other issues.
The Great Plains Tribal Water Alliance is a nonprofit organization comprised of four tribes – Standing Rock Sioux, Oglala Lakota Sioux, Rosebud Sioux, and Flandreau Sioux – that work collaboratively to protect treaty-based water rights within the Missouri River Basin.
On-the-ground construction and development will require separate site-specific review and approval before it can begin.
Additional documentation and informational resources can be found online here.