The Seminole Nation of Oklahoma sent energy companies within tribal boundaries a letter notifying them of a new permit requirement and gross production tax. However, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter has questions.
The December 7 letter from the tribe’s business and corporate regulatory commission said in part, “If you are actively producing oil and/or gas within our jurisdictional area you are required to pay a severance fee of 8% of the gross market value."
The Seminole Nation of Oklahoma declined to explain the letter on camera or return our multiple requests for comment. The website listed on the letter to energy companies does not work.
“I encourage our members who have received these letters to make sure we have copies of them, and we will be sharing them with public officials,” Petroleum Alliance of Oklahoma President Brook Simmons said.
His organization represents nearly 1,300 energy companies across the state. He said Seminole County is the fifth largest oil producing county in the state.
“Fortunately, the federal law and state law is on our member sides,” Simmons said. “The Seminole Nation does not have the legal authority to tax non-tribal minerals, and it does not have the legal authority to regular oil and gas activity. It’s pretty clear.”
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter agrees. He sent a letter to the tribe’s regulatory agency and chief on December 11, telling them to withdraw the letters within seven days.
Hunter wrote the letters, “can be seen as an attempt to intimidate those engaging in productive economic activity within the count to pay taxes and fees that the Seminole Nation has no jurisdiction to levy.”
Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt described the tribe’s action as “rogue” and said he’s worried it could be the tip of the iceberg.
“This will create major uncertainty and discourage businesses from investing in our state – and I’m worried it could be the tip of the iceberg,” Stitt said in a statement. “I want to work together with the tribes on a fair path forward that benefits all 4 million Oklahomans. This rogue action by the Seminole Nation is not helpful to that process.”
The dispute comes after the United States Supreme Court landmark McGirt decision last summer laid out tribal authority over criminal matters but said nothing of zoning and taxation.