By Associated Press - Friday, January 17, 2020

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Tribal members at a Bismarck conference talked oilfield best practices, including how to clean up oil spills using microorganisms.

The oilfield service company, Chief Oilfield Services, wants to train more tribal members in the technique, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

In a breakout session panel titled “Environmental Quality: Innovation and Best Practices” at the Strengthening Government to Government Partnerships and Relationships Conference on Wednesday, Tony Damian, owner of Chief and a member of the Three Affiliated Tribes, said he plans to partner with tribal colleges to establish a bioremediation certificate, then create a maintenance program that will employ tribal members who have received the training.

“Using microorganisms is an alternative to traditional spill remediation techniques such as digging out contaminated soil, hauling it away and replacing it clean material,” Damian said.

The microorganisms, called “archaea,” can function on land and in water.

“They’ll latch onto the oil and they’ll secrete an enzyme that will break the oil down into a fatty acid,” he said.

In water, the fatty acid becomes food for fish.

Others in the session panel discussed their experiences trying to ensure responsible oil development.

“When it comes to pipelines, it’s important to remove the risk before they’re started,” said Travis Hallam, director of the Three Affiliated Tribes Pipeline Authority.

He said the tribe has taken a proactive approach in meeting with companies and other regulators.

In particular, they want to be prepared for a potential spill from the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Tribes have requested information about what is being called a “worst-case discharge” - basically the most serious oil spill that could occur at the pipeline’s Missouri River crossing next to the reservation - as well as what spill response equipment could be made available in the case of a spill.

A spill response training exercise by the tribe and the state Department of Emergency Services will possibly take place this summer.

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