Last week, President Obama approved the first new oil refinery in more than 30 years.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the approval of a “land-into-trust” application from the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota.
“Today’s historic decision is another step forward in the Obama administration’s all-of-the-above energy strategy and commitment to strengthen Tribal communities and generate jobs for rural America,” Salazar said. “By working with the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara people to place this land into trust status, we are supporting infrastructure that will help bring American oil and gas to market while promoting tribal economic development and self-determination regarding land and resource use.”
The tribes requested that the Bureau of Indian Affairs take 469 acres into trust, with 190 set aside for the refinery and the remaining acreage to produce feed for their buffalo herd. Salazar went to the reservation to announce the approval at a news conference.
Environmentalists panned the move as a blatant push for pump-price-weary votes three weeks out from Election Day.
Salazar pitched the creation of 800 to 1,000 construction jobs, up to 140 operations jobs, and millions in annual revenue streams to benefit the tribes and surrounding rural communities, while pitching the standard administration line that under Obama “domestic oil and gas production has increased each year, with domestic oil production currently at an eight year high, and natural gas production at its highest level ever” — that hike being attributable to increased production on private lands while federal leases are stymied.
As proposed, the 13,000 barrel-per-day facility would handle crude from the wildly successful Bakken Formation fracking effort that has been hailed by the GOP as an American renaissance in fossil fuels.
But there are a couple of tripping points in the Salazar victory lap.
The project was initiated under the Bush administration, in 2003, and has been bogged by delays under this White House. Republicans also wryly noted that the administration’s proposed fracking regulations could make the refinery useless if they can’t extract oil and gas from the area.