April 30, 2014

Empowering Tribes to Address Energy Needs and Development Opportunities

U.S. SENATE – Today at a U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing Chairman Jon Tester and Vice Chairman John Barrasso called for increased energy development on tribal lands.
The hearing was held to consider ways to improve the ability of Indian tribes to responsibly develop their natural resources, including the Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act Amendments of 2014 (S. 2132).  This bill is intended to remove the burdensome and lengthy approval processes that currently cause potential development partners to look elsewhere for energy projects.
In 2005, Congress enacted legislation to allow tribes to develop their energy resources without the Secretary of the Interior’s approval of individual projects, provided the tribe had an approved Tribal Energy Resource Agreement (TERA).
 “Sadly, however, the Energy Policy Act has not been successful,” said Kevin Washburn, Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior.   Washburn added that since promulgation of the Department’s TERA regulations in 2008, the Department has not received a single TERA application.
Tester, who is working to revive the recently expired Indian Coal Production tax credit said, “Energy development has the potential to provide stable economic environments for tribes, their members and surrounding communities.   There is no entity better qualified to oversee and manage tribal resources than the tribes themselves.  We need to simplify and expedite the TERA process, but also further promote the development of alternative energy sources such as solar, biomass and hydroelectric projects.”
Barrasso said, “Energy development on tribal lands is critical for economic growth and job creation in Indian Country. By streamlining the approval process, this bill will give folks in Indian Country the tools they need to spur economic growth and create good paying jobs in their communities.”
James M. “Mike” Olguin, Acting Chairman of the Southern Ute Indian Tribal Council, said, “The tragic consequence of no approved TERAs and a continued reliance upon federal supervision has been the incredible lost opportunities to develop Indian energy resources during the period between 2005 and today.” 
Michael O. Finley, Chairman of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, said, “Potential partners and development capital sit on the sidelines because it takes years to get anything approved by the Department of the Interior.  Indian Country needs an institutionalized answer to the ongoing challenge of burdensome bureaucratic processes and delay of tribal energy leasing and permitting.”