Fracking in Bad Faith
When a 5.8 earthquake—the largest in Oklahoma’s history—struck Pawnee on September 3, 2016, the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma felt literally shaken into action.
Six weeks later, on November 18, the Pawnee Nation and Pawnee tribal member Walter Echo-Hawk filed suit against U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to challenge federal oil and gas lease approvals on Indian trust lands within Pawnee jurisdiction. The litigation came after months of attempted resolutions and meetings with the tribe’s federal trust partners, and after the tribe’s October 2015 moratorium on leasing and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) approvals was repeatedly ignored.
“Before that earthquake, we were content trying to resolve this administratively through negotiation. We had identified systemic problems and we thought we had time to work them out,” said Andrew Knife Chief, executive director of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma.
“Then the earthquake hit and we realized—wow, we don’t have time. Unless we take more concrete action we’re never going to press this issue forward.”