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8th Circuit decides N.D. case Wednesday, March 6, 2024

"The Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation (MHA), an Indian nation of three affiliated tribes, appealed the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approval of eight applications for oil drilling by the Slawson Exploration Company, Inc. next to Lake Sakakawea, MHA's sole source of drinking water. MHA challenged the approvals under the Administrative Procedure Act, arguing that BLM's approval of the project was arbitrary and capricious due to an insufficient record and by precluding MHA from further developing the record about the threat the project posed to MHA's health and welfare.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to BLM and Slawson, dismissing the case with prejudice. The court found that BLM had engaged in reasoned decision-making and had evaluated all relevant factors. It noted that the agency placed the responsibility on Slawson to comply with tribal law without impeding MHA's ability as a sovereign to enforce its laws. The court also found that BLM's decision not to evaluate tribal law did not impact tribal sovereignty. The court concluded that MHA's jurisdiction over Slawson's project was not a relevant factor to the approvals and therefore further development of the record was not required.

Furthermore, the court found that MHA was not entitled to an evidentiary hearing as there was no dispute of material fact and MHA had adequate opportunities to submit evidence. Therefore, the court ruled that MHA had received all process required by the Constitution, laws, and agency regulation." (Case summary retrieved from:

Read the court's opinion here: