Osage County landowners say land is suffering
OSAGE COUNTY, Okla. - Osage County landowners say their land and cattle are suffering because of lax regulations on oil and gas. They're asking the federal government to strengthen regulations. The Osage County Landowners Association says its been a generational problem. They say they're not against drilling, but something needs to change to save their land. Cattle and oil derricks dot the Tallgrass Prairie in Osage County. It's home to Jeff Henry, a rancher and president of the Osage County Cattleman's Association. "Our frustration has been generations, dealing with the unenforced regulations, lack of appropriate regulations," Henry said. The Bureau of Indian Affairs regulates oil and gas production there because the mineral rights beneath the soil belong to the Osage Nation. Its regulations date back to 1906.
Henry says they're too vague. "We're not trying to attempt to stop drilling or keep anyone from doing so. We just expect them to do it in a respectful and environmentally friendly fashion," Henry said. Now the BIA is updating those regulations. The federal agency held a series of meeting to do that this week. The Cattleman's Association proposed several changes, but Henry says they're hitting a brick wall. "It's a combination that's been going on for years and years that's allowed the pollution, the oil spills and the salt water spills to go unenforced for literally generations," he said. Cynthia Boone is a member of the Osage Nation Minerals Council. "There are some issues there that I really think we need to explore more carefully," Boone said. She'd like to see better enforcement of current regulations with a few changes. "I'm not in favor of cut and paste sort of situation where we're going to take somebody else's regs (sic) and put them in with our regulations," Boone said. But Henry thinks they need to be overhauled. "I'm not going to stop fighting," he said. We haven't heard back from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.