Pawnee Nation Sues to Stop Drilling Permits

November 21, 2016

The Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma filed a lawsuit Friday against the Interior Department, Bureau of Indian Affairs and U.S. Bureau of Land Management, asking a judge to void recently approved drilling permits on tribal land and halt the issuance of new ones.

The lawsuit was filed by the tribe’s Attorney General Don Mason on behalf of the tribe and Pawnee Nation member Walter R. Echo-Hawk in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma based in Tulsa.

As reported in, the 5.8 magnitude quake on September 3, 2016, damaged Pawnee Nation administrative buildings and caused the state to shut down 37 injection wells near the quake's epicenter.

The tribe banned leasing and fracking approvals on Indian land last year, citing concerns that hydraulic fracturing causes earthquakes, water pollution, and impacts Indian water rights. “The subsurface pressures from that injected waste have caused a wave of disposal-induced earthquakes in northern Oklahoma,” according to the lawsuit.

The suit also says the Bureau of Indian Affairs approved at least 17 oil and gas leases on tribal land without following the National Environmental Policy Act's required environmental studies.

"BIA and BLM have run roughshod over Pawnee natural resource protection laws, disregarded a tribal moratorium on new oil and gas approvals, and violated the agencies’ trust responsibilities to the Pawnee,” the lawsuit alleges in its complaint. publishes an interactive listing and maps of daily earthquakes in the Oklahoma area.

Video of September 3, 2016 earthquake: