Ute Indian Tribe Rips Biden's Drilling Ban: 'Attack on Our Economy, Sovereignty,' and Self-Determination


A Biden administration freeze on oil and gas leasing and drilling permits is being denounced by one Native American tribe as a violation of its sovereignty.

On Wednesday, acting Interior Secretary Scott de la Vega issued a 60-day ban on new permits on federal land, according to The Washington Times.

That did not sit well with the Ute Indian Tribe of Utah, which fired off a letter to de la Vega, calling for the order to be amended to allow for drilling on Native American lands.

“The Ute Indian Tribe and other energy producing tribes rely on energy development to fund our governments and provide services to our members,” said the letter from Luke Duncan, chairman of the Ute Indian Tribe Business Committee.

“Your order is a direct attack on our economy, sovereignty, and our right to self-determination,” Duncan wrote, according to The Washington Times. “Indian lands are not federal public lands. Any action on our lands and interests can only be taken after effective tribal consultation.”

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The order “violates the United States treaty and trust responsibilities to the Ute Indian Tribe and violates important principles of tribal sovereignty and self-determination,” the letter stated. “Your order was also issued in violation of our government-to-government relationship.”

The Ute Indian Tribe produces about 45,000 barrels of crude oil per day and about 900 million cubic feet per day of natural gas, Reuters reported, citing a 2017 filing with the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

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Tyler Cherry, a spokesman for the Department of the Interior, said the order does not block all permits, but “temporarily elevates review of relevant agency decisions” to “Department leadership for the purposes of reviewing questions of fact, law, and policy they raise.”

“Nothing has been paused or suspended — just elevated for review,” he said, according to The Washington Times.

Nonetheless, the ban has received harsh criticism.

“An all-out assault on American energy independence appears to be the top priority of the Biden Administration,” said Republican Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas, according to The Washington Times.

“From rejoining Paris to canceling Keystone and now this ban on drilling on federal land, it’s clear the campaign trail rhetoric of banning oil and gas is turning into actual policy in the Biden-Harris White House.”

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Some denounced the ripple effects of the order.

“Restricting development on federal lands and waters is nothing more than an ‘import more oil’ policy. Energy demand will continue to rise — especially as the economy recovers — and we can choose to produce that energy here in the United States or rely on foreign countries hostile to American interests,” said Mike Sommers, president of the American Petroleum Institute, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.

Rikki Hrenko-Browning, president of the Utah Petroleum Association, said the order would “negatively impact local economies all across the West including Utah,” according to the Tribune.

It also “infringes  Native American sovereignty and self-determination, and works against the Biden administration’s goal of combating climate change,” Hrenko-Browning said, the newspaper reported. “We strongly urge the Biden administration to revisit this decision and instead work in a collaborative fashion, in the way his inaugural address portended.”

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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