MHA Nation Hosts EPA Administrator in Historic Meeting
EPA Administrator Michael Regan and Team Receives Background of the MHA Nation Goals, Tribal Culture and History
CHAIRMAN MARK FOX POINTED OUT THE BEAUTY OF THE RIVER THAT FLOWS IN FRONT OF THE MHA INTERPRETIVE CENTER TO MICHAEL REGAN OF THE EPA
By Logan J. Davis
The MHA Nation has been high up on the priority list for places that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael S. Regan wanted to visit. Regan’s sojourn to the Fort Berthold Reservation last week brought him a clear insight of the land and the indigenous culture of the native tribes that have been caretakers of the land for many thousands of years.
EPA TRIBAL CHAIRMAN FOX AND MHA STAFF MEMBERS AFTER THE FINAL MEETING WITH EPA DIRECTOR REGAN AT TRIBAL HEADQUARTERS
In his role as the head of the EPA for President Biden, Regan came here with the purpose of learning about the MHA Nation’s environmental and economic issues and concerns. He learned much more than he could have ever imagined in a whirlwind tour that presented him with the rich history and culture of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara people. Regan was very interested in all of the plans in environmental protections that the MHA Nation has in place and to forge a partnership and understanding with MHA Nation in combating climate change. Upon his arrival to the reservation, Regan was greeted at the doorsteps of the MHA Nation Interpretive Center by Chairman Mark Fox and a contingent of MHA Nation staff members, veterans and tribal elders. What took place after their handshake and opening ceremony with a flag raising by the VFW Post 9061 was a historical journey about the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara that was initiated by Chairman Fox as the two men spoke overlooking the Missouri River near the earth lodge villages. The group of dignitaries and other invited guests then entered the new facility where MHA Interpretive Center Director Delphine Baker gave Regan and his staff a guided tour of the MHA Interpretive Center.
Chairman Fox gave his assurances to Regan that the MHA Nation is taking all precautions necessary to protect the environment. The Tribal Chairman told Regan that the development of the oil and gas has brought economic opportunity and growth to the people of the MHA Nation. Chairman Fox spoke about the many projects that have been completed because of the development such as new schools in Parshall, White Shield, and many other important on-going construction projects in all the segments, including Four Bears and Twin Buttes Segments. Chairman Fox stressed that the MHA Nation and the people have benefited from the oil and gas production.
He illustrated the point that the MHA Nation has utilized the resources from oil and gas revenues to build a long-lasting and modern infrastructure for future generations, while considering the protection of the environment. Chairman Fox spoke about the differences between federal public land and federal trust land and the goal that there are both pros and cons in the oil and gas industry development. However, he emphasized that the tribe has to have its own authority to tax the oil and gas that is taken from tribal lands within the boundaries of the reservation.
THE VFW POST 9061 MEMBERS RAISED THE FLAGS IN HONOR OF THE VISIT TO THE MHA NATION FROM EPA DIRECTOR MICHAEL REGAN
MHA CHAIRMAN MARK FOX EXPLAINS SOME OF THE TRIBAL ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION MEASURES AT A DRILLING RIG SITE TO EPA DIRECTOR MICHAEL REGAN (CENTER)
PUBLIC RELATIONS COORDINATOR LOVELLE OVERLIE DRAPES GIFT BLANKET OVER MICHAEL REGAN FOR CHAIRMAN FOX
EPA ADMINISTRATOR MICHAEL REGAN, DR. ANITA MARTIN, KELLY CUMMINGS-MCGRADY, MARLE BAKER AND CHAIRMAN MARK FOX
“We strongly believe in our trust resource development, but we believe in responsible development,” stated Chairman Fox. “We also believe – if necessary, to slow things down, because our people are here for the long-term and we’re not going anywhere. We are not going to lose the quality of our water and we’re not going to lose the quality of our lives. We’re going to do our best to improve the quality of our lives such as building schools, health care facilities, places like the Good Road Recovery Center and all of the projects made possible by utilizing the resources we have. We made the conscious decision years ago to develop our own trust resources because the state provides little support to us. Over time, the state has actually taken 3 billion dollars in oil and gas tax revenue from our reservation and I can tell you that the state has given very little of that back to our tribes.”
At the conclusion of the Tribal Chairman’s remarks on Thursday evening at the MHA Interpretive Center, the facility hosted a traditional dinner. After the meal, MHA Nation honored several individuals on the COVID-19 Task Force and Vaccine Program to highlight their importance during the pandemic. The evening social with the EPA Director and his team ended with a cultural presentation video narrated by Lawrence Baker that gave a demonstration of dance, song and native heritage of the MHA Nation people.
The following morning, Regan and his team were at the Bison Board Room hosted by the MHA Nation and Four Bears Casino and Lodge. After a flag posting ceremony, the meetings and presentations continued regarding many issues concerning the goals of both the MHA Nation and the EPA. After a brunch provided by the Four Bears Casino, the groups left for a site visit to the Mandaree (Blue Buttes) area where Regan was able to get a first-hand look at one of the producing well sites on the reservation. Enerplus representative Josh Ruffo was on hand to answer any questions on the well site for Regan and his EPA team.
“Trust resource development is a responsibility of tribal leaders,” Chairman Fox stated. “We are positioned now better than in the past to help the Biden Administration in achieving their goals. We recognize the government’s authority and we agree that natural gas flaring is a waste and pollutes the environment. It is not a good thing and we need to figure a way to capture all of it. We do have very capable offices (Energy Department and TAT Environmental Department) here on MHA that both work daily on protecting our environment.”
Regan was pleased to hear about the plans for natural gas capturing to significantly reduce or eliminate the flaring on active oil rigs. As the former secretary of North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality before he accepted his new role as Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, he has a track record in addressing environmental racism and supporting policy to address climate change.
“I would encourage any type of technological options to limit methane pollution,” responded Regan. “We are looking to create a wonderful opportunity to address the issue of gas capturing and that tribal law and sovereignty is being honored. I look forward to having more conversations with (MHA Nation) in the future as we work together on the goals we have.”
Kenny Lyson, TAT Energy Department Director said it was a great opportunity to meet with EPA officials because Regan was willing to listen to all of the issues and concerns of the MHA Nation and that he will convey those messages back to the President.