Senate Passes Bipartisan Bill to Break Down Barriers to Energy Development in Indian Country

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Dec 11, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators John Barrasso (R-WY) and Jon Tester (D-MT), chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, praised the Senate’s passage of S. 209, the Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act Amendments of 2015. The bipartisan bill was introduced by Chairman Barrasso and Vice Chairman Tester. The bill will give Indian tribes more tools to develop their energy resources and to remove unnecessary barriers to economic development in Indian Country.

“One of the best ways to facilitate economic opportunities in Indian Country is to give tribes more control over the development of their natural resources,” said Chairman Barrasso. “This bill helps tribes by streamlining Washington’s slow approval process and cutting red tape. It will help create good-paying jobs across Indian Country while increasing our nation’s energy security. I look forward to it passing the House and being signed into law soon.”

“Tribes should be in control of their energy resources,” Vice Chairman Tester said. “This bipartisan bill increases self-determination and allows tribes to build a sustainable energy plan that will create good-paying jobs and a more stable economy.”

In addition to Senators Barrasso and Tester, S. 209 is co-sponsored by Senators John McCain (R-AZ), John Hoeven (R-ND), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Cory Gardner (R-CO).

Background

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 included an Indian Energy title – Title V. Title V was enacted to deal with the delays and uncertainties inherent in the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ energy leasing process. Title V was intended to provide Indian tribes with an alternative way to develop their energy resources.

The bipartisan bill includes a number of amendments to the process established in 2005. The legislation cuts red tape and makes it easier for Indian tribes to develop their own resources. It also streamlines the process for approving “tribal energy resource agreements” (TERAs) and making the TERA approval process more predictable for Indian tribes.

The bill addresses other aspects of Indian energy development, including a “biomass demonstration project” for biomass energy production from Indian forest lands, rangelands and other federal lands in accordance with program requirements developed by the secretaries of Interior and Agriculture after consultation with Indian tribes. It would facilitate the development of tribal biomass projects by providing Indian tribes with access to more reliable and potentially long-term supplies of woody biomass materials.

Senator Barrasso originally introduced the Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act in 2011.

S. 209 passed out of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on February 4, 2015.

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