August 2012

The mountains along the eastern edge of Glacier National Park rise from the prairie like dinosaur teeth, their silvery ridges and teardrop fields of snow forming the doorway to one of America’s most pristine places.

Yes, there is beauty here on the Blackfeet reservation, but there is also oil, locked away in the tight shale thousands of feet underground. And tribal leaders have decided to tap their land’s buried wealth. The move has divided the tribe while igniting a debate over the promise and perils of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in a place where grizzlies roam into backyards and many residents see the land as something living and sacred.

All through the billiard-green mesas leading up to the mountains are signs of the boom. Well pads and water tanks dot the rolling hills. Tractor-trailers loaded with chemicals and drilling machinery kick up contrails of dust along the reservation’s winding gravel roads. And spirelike drilling rigs quietly bore into the ground, silhouetted against mountains with names like Sinopah, Rising Wolf and Chief.

It is an increasingly common sight for tribes across the West and Plains: Tourist spending has gone slack since the recession hit. American Indian casino revenues are stagnating just as tribal gambling faces new competition from online gambling and waves of new casinos. Oil and fracking are new lifelines.

One drilling rig on the Blackfeet reservation generated 49 jobs for tribal members — a substantial feat in a place where unemployment is as high as 70 percent. But as others watched the rigs rise, they wondered whether the tribe was making an irrevocable mistake.

“These are our mountains,” said Cheryl Little Dog, a recently elected member of the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council, the reservation’s governing body. “I look at what we have, and I think, why ruin it over an oil rig?”

Oil exploration here began in the 1920s, largely on the plains along the eastern edge of the reservation, but it died off in the early 1980s. Over the last four years, though, new fracking technologies and rising oil prices have lured the drillers back, and farther and farther west, to the mountains that border Glacier National Park.

Oil companies have leased out the drilling rights for a million of the reservation’s 1.5 million acres, land held by the tribe, according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. They have drilled 30 exploratory wells this year alone, and are already engaged in fracking many of them, pumping a slurry of water, sand and chemicals to crack open underground rock beds to pry out the oil.

“It’ll change the lives of a lot of people,” said Grinnell Day Chief, the tribe’s oil and gas manager. “It’ll be a boost to everybody. There’s talk of a hotel coming up.”

To tribal leaders, oil wealth could be more lucrative and reliable than any casino — a resource whose royalties could transform a reservation scarred by poverty and alcoholism.

Blackfeet elders say they have already collected about $30 million, primarily from three oil companies, the Anschutz Exploration Corporation, the Newfield Exploration Company and Rosetta Resources. The tribe has used signing bonuses to pay off debts from building the Glacier Peaks Casino. It built a tribe-owned grocery to compete with the IGA in Browning, the reservation’s largest town. The tribe’s approximately 16,500 members each got $200 in trickle-down payments from the drilling last year, and the oil companies have donated money to the local basketball team and to buy children toys and jackets last Christmas.

For some on the reservation, the drills cannot come soon enough. In April, T. J. Show, then the chairman of the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council, told a House committee that the layers of oversight and paperwork needed to drill into tribal lands were “extremely slow and burdensome.” He told the panel he opposed new federal rules that would clamp down on fracking and chase away oil companies.

To find the opposing view, one needs only to drive five miles west from Browning, past the casino, heading straight toward the mountains, and pull off at the red gate on the right. There, on a recent summer afternoon, over mugs of horsemint tea, Pauline Matt and a handful of Blackfeet women were trying to find a way to persuade the tribal leaders to stop the drilling.

“It threatens everything we are as Blackfeet,” she said.

Other environmental activists around Glacier have raised concerns that the fracking operations, if they continue and expand, could pollute air quality, contaminate sensitive watersheds and tarnish a night almost uncontaminated by man-made lights.

Chas Cartwright, the superintendent of Glacier National Park, has asked for a full-scale environmental review of drilling on the reservation. In a July 31 letter to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, he raised concerns about how drilling might affect grizzly bear populations, air quality and the vistas from mountain perches inside the park.

And the tribe’s environmental office and roads department have already noted damage to the roads, and small chemical and fuel spills.

The divisions within the tribe are more than disputes over the economy and environment — they represent two visions of the land where Blackfeet members have lived for centuries.

Ms. Matt and the women who oppose the fracking speak about the streams and meadows and mountains as if they were family members. They go on vision quests in the mountains. They braid native sweetgrass to burn in prayers and collect berries and herbs for food, medicine and ceremonies.

The drilling companies, the local Bureau of Land Management and tribal officials say there has been no evidence that the fracking has affected the reservation’s water supplies or soured its air. But to opponents, the damage to the land is still being done.

“You see this butterfly, you hear those birds?” asked Crystal LaPlant, as she sat on Ms. Matt’s back porch one evening, the meadows alive with sound. “Once they start drilling, we aren’t going to have those things anymore.”

Ron Crossguns, who works for the Blackfeet tribe’s oil and gas division, has oil leases on his land, a 10-foot cross in his yard, and little patience for that kind of pastoral veneration. He called it “movie Indian” claptrap, divorced from modern realities. Mountains, he said, are just mountains.

“They’re just big rocks, nothing more,” Mr. Crossguns said. “Don’t try to make them into nothing holy. Jesus Christ put them there for animals to feed on, and for people to hunt on.”

And maybe, for people to drill into. Whether the oil companies keep drilling may depend less on the tribe’s attitudes than the raw economics of extracting oil from extremely tight rock formations. The oil companies are still taking samples, analyzing the rocks and trying to figure out whether they can turn a profit.

“The earth is saturated with oil,” Dave Loken, a senior geologist with Anschutz, said at a recent meeting of tribal leaders and oil companies to discuss the future of drilling on the Blackfeet land. “It’s very tough to get the oil out. We’re still working on it.”


This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: August 17, 2012

An article on Thursday about oil drilling on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Montana misstated the name of a mountain near the reservation. It is the Rising Wolf Mountain, not Running Wolf Mountain.
















Dozens of Israelis crowded in front of a storefront at a Jerusalem shopping mall yesterday to pick up new gas masks, part of civil defense preparations in case the military strikes Iran and the Islamic Republic or its allies retaliate.

“Our leaders seem to have gotten very hawkish in their speeches and this time it seems they mean what they say,” said Yoram Lands, 68, a professor of business administration, who was picking up new masks for himself and his wife at a distribution center in the mall.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Aug. 1 that time “is running out” for a peaceful solution to Iran’s atomic program. The Tel Aviv-based Haaretz newspaper reported Aug. 10 that Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are considering bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities before U.S. elections on Nov. 6. Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev said government policy is not to comment on media speculation.

“It seems that Netanyahu and Barak are making a special effort now to prepare the Israeli public for an attack on Iran,” said Shlomo Brom, a former commander of the army’s Strategic Planning Division, who said that any strike could come within the next six months. In the past, rhetoric was directed at pushing the international community to take stronger action against Iran, said Brom, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.

New System

While Israeli leaders repeatedly have said that they could strike Iran’s facilities, the words are now being accompanied by civil defense measures, including a new system that uses text messages to alert the public to missile attacks, wider distribution of gas masks and the appointment of a new Home Front Defense minister. The threats also come as nuclear talks between Iran and world powers have stalled and increased sanctions have so far failed to stop Iran’s atomic progress.

Concern that the Israeli moves may herald a possible strike helped weaken the shekel to its lowest value in almost 15 months this week, sent government benchmark bond yields climbing and pushed the Tel Aviv Stock Market (TA-25) to a three-week low on Aug. 13. The Bloomberg Israel-US Equity Index of the most-traded Israeli companies in New York sank the most in three months, making the benchmark gauge the cheapest in two years relative to the Standard & Poor’s 500.

“With the headlines and saber-rattling we’ve had the last week, there is a higher risk premium, so it’s logical you see the currency weaken,” said Jonathan Katz, a Jerusalem-based economist for HSBC Holdings Plc.

Destabilizing Region

U.S. officials, concerned that a conflict could destabilize the region and send oil prices soaring, have been urging caution. Panetta told reporters yesterday that the “window is still open” to resolve the dispute through diplomacy and that he thinks Israel hasn’t made a decision “at this time” to attack Iranian nuclear sites.

“From our point of view, the window is still open to try to work toward a diplomatic solution,” he said during a briefing at the Pentagon outside Washington.

David Rothkopf, a visiting scholar at the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said it is “extremely unlikely Israel could do anything without a regional ally or the cooperation of the U.S.”

Iranian officials have dismissed the threats of an attack.

“We don’t think any of the officials in this illegitimate regime wants to do something as illogical as this,” Ramin Mehmanparast, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, told reporters at a Tehran press conference yesterday. Iran says its nuclear program aims to produce electricity for a growing population.

Tougher Sanctions

Amid earlier Israeli threats, the U.S. and its European allies passed tougher sanctions against Iran that have been taking a toll on the country’s economy.

Iranian oil production has declined 20 percent this year to 2.86 million barrels a day, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Crude oil futures in New York have advanced 19 percent in the seven days ending Aug. 7 as Iranian exports have fallen, according to an Aug. 10 report of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s Commitments of Traders.

Prices of meat, rice and bread have spiraled in Iran as inflation accelerated to 22.4 percent in the 12 months through June 20.

There are concerns that repeated Israeli threats to strike Iran may force Israel’s hand if the West doesn’t take more serious action.


Third Threat

The Israelis are “almost in the comic situation of threatening to strike repeatedly — this is the third threat in three months — but nothing ever happens, which in my view is damaging to their credibility,” said Aaron David Miller, a former State Department official and a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, a Washington policy group.

Barak in February said that Israel would need to act militarily within months, before Iran reaches a “zone of immunity” where its underground enrichment facilities would be invulnerable to Israeli air strikes.

Polls show that the Israeli public’s opposition to a strike has been declining. Some 46 percent of Israelis are against an attack on Iran without U.S. support, according to a poll by the Dialog Institute reported on Channel 10 on Aug. 12. That compares with 58 percent opposed to such a move in a survey by Dialog published March 8 in Haaretz. Both surveys questioned 500 Israeli adults.

U.S. presidential elections may influence an Israeli decision.

Israelis “believe there’s a closing window of opportunity and they also believe politically it’s far more complex if they wait until after November to strike,” said David Makovsky, director of research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

‘They’re Concerned’

“I think they’re concerned that if they attack during a lame-duck period they have a lot more uncertainty about American reaction,” he said.

An attack would also come as one of Iran’s closest allies, Syria, is busy battling domestic insurgents who control parts of the country’s cities and countryside. That also has weakened Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, an Iranian ally that depends on Syria for arms and support.

“This is the best window Israel is going to get,” said Gerald Steinberg, professor of political science at Bar Ilan University outside Tel Aviv. “If a strike doesn’t happen in the next six months and Iran doesn’t back down, then the Israeli threat will lose its credibility.”

By Calev Ben-David on August 14, 2012

Words to Think:
if Israel attack Iran, Iran’s nuclear facilities would be damage but at what cost to Israel and will it stop Iran from developing Nukes in the future? It would be a very long war and Israel and US has to occupy Iran. I don’t think US will send their men and women to fight in a ground war in Iran. It already cost US a lot of dead and maimed soldiers when they occupy Iraq which is smaller than Iran. Iran is a lot bigger.I think  Israel should just learn how to live with Nuclear Iran, anyway they have their own NUkes which would serve as deterent. 


The Israelis Never attact IRAN and this is why…

What the father of nuclear weapon of Pakistan was doing in IRAN from 2005 to 2009??
What the 15 North Korean Missile scientists was doing in IRAN from 2005 to 2010??
Maby IRAN already have the nukes and the missiles to deliver in Tel Aviv And Haifa?? Are the Iranians Waiting the Israelis to make the stupit move first ??
If the Israelis attact first the Iranians have every right to attact Israel in Return. and all the worlds nation will be with them.
The Iranians so far never attacted any nation or threatened. Only the Israelis have bad record for that.. The Iranians said that they will attact Israel if the Israelis attacted them first.
If i was Israeli I will be more  nervous of an Iranian surprise
dont forget that they took over and controlled the spy US plane

Chelsea Clinton may follow in her parents’ footsteps after all. After years of shooting down rumors that she may run for office, the 32-year-old Clinton left the door open to having another Clinton on the electoral ballots.

“Before my mom’s campaign I would have said no,” Clinton said in an interview published in the latest issue of Vogue magazine. “And now I don’t know. . .”

“If there were to be a point where it was something I felt called to do and I didn’t think there was someone who was sufficiently committed to building a healthier, more just, more equitable, more productive world?” Clinton continued. “Then that would be a question I’d have to ask and answer.”

Clinton, who married investment banker Mark Mezvinsky in 2010, said that after the media circus surrounding her wedding, she realized that her celebrity was either “something I could continue to ignore or it was something I could try to use to highlight causes that I really cared about,” she told Vogue.

“Historically I deliberately tried to lead a private life in the public eye,” she said. “And now I am trying to lead a purposefully public life.”

The only daughter of former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said people have been pestering her about running for office her entire life.

“It was something I had thought a lot about because people have been asking me that my whole life,” Clinton said. “Even during my father’s 1984 gubernatorial campaign, it was, ‘Do you want to grow up and be governor one day?’ No. I am four.”

At her age, Bill Clinton already held public office, serving as Arkansas attorney general from age 31. But it was not until age 54 that her mom first stepped into elected office as a U.S. senator.

“I believe that there are many ways for each of us to play our part,” Clinton told Vogue. “For a very long time that’s what my mom did. And then she went into elected public life. Her life is a testament to the principle that there are many ways to serve.”


By Amy Bingham , August 14, 2012