Tribes Settle $13.1 Million Dispute With Energy Company, Aren't Saying For How Much

After a federal judge ordered Wyoming’s two American Indian tribes to pay an oil and gas company $13.1 million, the tribes challenged the ruling. But they settled last week with the company for an unknown dollar amount.  

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Clair McFarland

December 21, 20232 min read

Wind River Indian Reservation sign 12 21 23

After a federal judge ordered Wyoming’s two American Indian tribes to pay an oil and gas company $13.1 million, the tribes challenged the ruling. But they settled last week with the company for an unknown dollar amount.  

U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl in September ordered the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes to pay $13.1 million to settle an old debt for energy infrastructure that Merit Energy Operations left behind in a tribal oil field when the tribes cut ties with it.  

The tribes and the energy company had haggled over the true cost of the equipment, which led to arbitration. The arbitration panel valued the equipment at $13.1 million, and Skavdahl confirmed the panel’s decision.  

Now the tribes have settled – possibly for a lesser amount – but that figure is not public.  

“The terms of the agreement are confidential,” said a spokesman for the Northern Arapaho Business Council, which is the executive branch of the Northern Arapaho Tribe.  

The Eastern Shoshone Business Council’s spokeswoman did not respond by Thursday to a Monday email requesting comment.  

Merit Energy did not respond by Thursday to a Monday phone message requesting comment.  

Governments And People's Money 

The Wyoming Supreme Court ruled Aug. 8 in Gates v. Memorial Hospital of Converse County, that a settlement contract in which a government entity is a party, and which uses public money, is a public record.  

Which means it can be made public.  

But the tribal governments are not subject generally to the state high court’s mandates or to Wyoming’s laws.  

The NABC’s spokesman said Monday that he would look into whether the Northern Arapaho Tribe is sharing the settlement amount with its own tribal members. He did not have an answer by Thursday.  

Both tribes accept federal and state public funding, and they also make money from their own ventures, such as energy, hospitality and casinos.  

Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter