WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, today addressed the 2017 National Tribal Energy Summit. The summit, hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Conference of State Legislatures, supports tribal and federal initiatives to increase American energy security.
In his remarks, Hoeven called for reducing barriers to tribal economic development and highlighted his bill, the Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act Amendments of 2017. The bipartisan legislation will streamline the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ complex energy leasing process and give Indian tribes greater control over the development of their natural resources.
Senator Hoeven’s Remarks as Prepared for Delivery:
“Thank you to Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Director of the Office of Indian Energy Chris Deschene and the rest of the Department of Energy for hosting today’s National Tribal Energy Summit.
“I am glad to see some of my friends from North Dakota here – tribal leaders from the Three Affiliated Tribes of Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara, including Chairman Mark Fox.
“Again, it’s an honor to be with you today.
“It is a privilege to chair the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and work with Native American leaders from all over the country. I look forward to working with the new vice chairman of the committee, Senator Tom Udall from New Mexico. Tom and I are good friends and we work very well together. We certainly want to lead in a bipartisan way as we address the needs of Indian Country.
“We have a great opportunity to continue the good work of Senator John Barrasso from Wyoming, my predecessor as chairman of the committee, and Senator Jon Tester from Montana, the former vice chairman.
“Already, we’ve passed 14 bills out of committee, held 2 oversight hearings, an infrastructure roundtable, and a field hearing in North Dakota.
“As chairman, I want to focus on some areas that are particularly important to Indian tribes and communities, including jobs and economic development, health care, energy, housing, public safety, and veterans.
“The role of government is to create a positive business climate to spur job creation, economic growth, and more opportunity for all.
“If we empower Indian tribes and other partners to invest, innovate, and create jobs, we will build a higher standard of living for our citizens across Indian Country.
“One of the ways to attract businesses to Indian Country is through energy development.
“The United States energy sector is a major industry that brings jobs and economic security to millions of families. The energy industry creates high-paying jobs, while providing dependable and affordable energy to cool and heat homes, power businesses, and provide fuel for our transportation systems. Energy is a keystone industry of our economy that all other industry sectors rely upon.
“Energy resources such as coal, natural gas, wind and solar can provide significant revenue to tribes when developed. And tribes should have the same opportunities to develop their resources as any other sovereign nation.
“According to Department of the Interior data, in fiscal year 2014, development of Indian energy resources brought in over a billion dollars in revenue to tribes.
“Indian energy is not a one-size fits all. Rather it is a chance to uniquely develop energy resources that fit the tribe’s need.
“In my home state, the Three Affiliated Tribes of Mandan, Hidasta and Arikara continues to develop the natural resources on their reservation. The director of the Three Affiliated Tribes Environment Division, Edmund Baker, has said that they want to develop oil and ‘do it responsibly,’ while continuing to show other tribes that it can be done successfully.
“They are a great example of a tribal nation empowering itself through energy development. Income generated by oil provides high-paying jobs to tribal members and economic sovereignty to the tribe.
“North Dakota is the second largest oil producing state in the nation, and if the Three Affiliated Tribes were their own state they would be the 9th largest oil producing state.
“Just to the west of North Dakota, the Crow Big Metal Mine in Montana contains 1.4 billion tons of coal. Tribal Chairman Darrin Old Coyote points out that, ‘For the Crow people, there are no jobs that compare to a coal job.’
“In Nevada, the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians, have activated the first 250 megawatt solar farm on their reservation. This is the first solar farm on tribal land and will produce enough energy to power about 110,000 homes.
“In Southern Colorado, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe has developed its natural gas and oil resources. Through their subsidiary energy companies, they conduct business in over 10 states and in the Gulf of Mexico. They are one of the largest employers in the Four Corners Region. In testimony to the Senate, the tribe stated:
‘These energy-related economic successes have resulted in a higher standard of living for our tribal members. Our members have jobs. Our educational programs provide meaningful opportunities at all levels. Our elders have stable retirement benefits. We have exceeded many of our financial goals, and we are well on the way to providing our children and their children the potential to maintain our tribe and its lands in perpetuity.’
“These are shining examples of tribes taking control of their economic security by developing their energy resources. Energy projects create high-paying jobs and bring in revenue to tribal governments. Each tribe should have this opportunity to succeed.
“According to the Government Accountability Office, Indian Country’s vast energy resources are largely undeveloped and remain so because of bureaucratic red-tape from federal agencies, lack of coordination between federal agencies, and inadequate Bureau of Indian Affairs workforce planning. For instance, a tribal official said it took almost eight years for federal agencies to review energy-related documents. The tribe estimates that the delay cost the tribe nearly $95 million in revenues.
“In my home state, it typically requires 4 federal agencies and 49 approvals to get a permit to drill. That can be up to 290 days to get one permit compared to a couple of weeks off reservation.
“When a tribe can lose up to $95 million dollars because of bureaucratic delays, it is obvious that something is wrong. That is why I have introduced the Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act Amendments of 2017, along with Senators Barrasso, McCain, Enzi, Gardner, Lankford, Heitkamp and Moran.
“This bipartisan bill directs the Department of the Interior to provide Indian tribes with technical assistance in planning their energy resource development programs. The legislation cuts red tape and makes it easier for Indian tribes to develop their own resources.
“This bill will:
· Give tribes a more effective and accessible way to develop their energy resources (including conventional fossil fuels and renewable resources such as wind or solar energy) and contribute to the goal of greater energy independence for the United States.
· Authorize tribes and certified third parties to conducts energy appraisals, in addition to the Secretary of the Interior.
· Authorize the Department of Energy’s National Laboratories to provide Indian tribes with technical and scientific assistance.
· Streamline the process for approving “tribal energy resource agreements” or TERAs and make the TERA approval process more predictable for the Indian tribe.
· Encourage the formation of joint tribal-industry ventures for purposes of developing the tribe’s resources without Secretarial approval, provided the tribe remains the majority owner and in control of the venture.
· Authorize FERC to treat Indian tribes in a manner similar to States and municipalities with regard to preferences for permits and original licenses (where no preliminary permit has been issued) for hydroelectric projects.
· Allow tribal biomass demonstration projects under the Tribal Forest Protection Act of 2004. The provisions would lengthen the terms of stewardship contracts with tribes that meet the eligibility requirements of the demonstration project in order to accommodate biomass projects requiring longer terms for investment purposes.
“This bill has been introduced in the past four Congresses, primarily by the former Chairman of the Committee, Senator John Barrasso last Congress, Senator Jon Tester before him and going back to Senator Byron Dorgan from my state of North Dakota.
“On February 8th, the committee moved this bill and I expect it to pass the full Senate very soon. I urge you to join me in advancing this important bill through the full Senate and the House, and get it signed into law.
“Thank you for this opportunity. It is an honor to be here with you and to work with you.”