Following Pressure From Senator Dorgan, Interior Department Clears Backlog Of Royalty Payments At Fort Berthold And Payment Will Be Sent This Month
Following months of pressure from Chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee Senator Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) to act quickly, the Interior Department has cleared a significant backlog of royalty payments on the Fort Berthold Reservation.
Earlier this month, the Interior Department finished processing 20 backlogged communitization agreements (CA's) that delayed royalty payments of about $5 million to hundreds of individual Indians and the Three Affiliated Tribes. Most of the approximately $5 million in royalties owed to the Three Affiliated Tribes and individual Fort Berthold allottees will be paid this month.
On average it took five months for Interior to get the information it needed and process the backlogged CA's, and two of the backlogged CA's were pending for a year or more.
"It is unfair that it took this long to collect the information needed to distribute royalty payments to the rightful mineral owners. Some tribal members waited months, even a year or more, for these long over-due payments while oil was being produced on their land," Dorgan said. "I'm glad that we were finally able to clear this backlog. At each step in the process, we learn of bureaucratic processing delays. We must ensure the timely processing of Fort Berthold CA's so that everyone can benefit from the significant oil and gas resources in the Bakken Formation."
As soon as Senator Dorgan learned of the delays, he contacted the Department of Interior to identify the problem and urged a quick resolution. In response, the Bureau of Land Management hired additional staff and prioritized the processing of Fort Berthold CA's. But, when efforts to clear the backlog slowed in September, Dorgan again pushed the Department to clear the backlog by using its authority to set deadlines for the submission of information needed to process CA's.
Although CA's add steps to the oil and gas development process, they also ensure that no one's acreage is improperly drained or standard from oil production. CA's are a necessary component of development in the Bakken Formation where large areas are needed for horizontal drilling.
Dorgan will continue to work with the Department of Interior to tighten up time frames between production, CA approval and when payments are due.