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senate Bill S. 245

Should Indian Tribes Have More Freedom to Develop Energy on Their Lands?

Argument in favor

Currently, strict controls on energy development on tribal land make energy development there prohibitive. Giving tribes more autonomy to make decisions about energy development on their lands will empower them to use their lands’ natural resources to lift their communities out of poverty by creating jobs and supplying affordable energy to American consumers.

Joseph's Opinion
···
12/10/2018
The land belongs to them so they have the right to do as they please with it
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Virginia's Opinion
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12/10/2018
Yes, the Indian Tribes (whom we forcefully took their lands) should be allowed to develop & prosper on the few hundred acres the Government allows them! Why don't we bury our heads in shame for murdering & forcing them back & placing them in total dependence on the Government? They are smart & don't need to be controlled or limited!
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SneakyPete's Opinion
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12/10/2018
S. 245 Indian Tribal Energy Develop & Self-Determination Act I’m in support Of and recommend passage of Senate bill S. 245 AKA the Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act Amendments of 2017 which would make various amendments to existing federal energy programs on tribal lands aimed at giving tribes more autonomy in developing energy resources on their lands. Currently, strict controls on energy development on tribal land make energy development there prohibitive. Giving tribes more autonomy to make decisions about energy development on their lands will empower them to use their lands’ natural resources to lift their communities out of poverty by creating jobs and supplying affordable energy to American consumers. SneakyPete. 👍🏻🇺🇸👍🏻🇺🇸👍🏻. 12*10*18.....
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Argument opposed

The federal government shouldn’t give Indian tribes more authority to develop energy on their lands if they’re choosing the wrong type of energy in terms of environmental impact. While some tribes have expressed interest in renewable energy, others have expressed interest in traditional oil and natural gas, which are harmful to the environment at both extraction and use.

Linda's Opinion
···
12/03/2018
It allows leases and agreements so is that for fracking, drilling & mining on their land. Native Americans need to comment on this. Is it to help the people living there? Or open their lands to harmful development. Senate (GOP) passed it. I see more harm than good. An attempt to take over land by fossil fuel industry which will cause pollution and destruction.
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Scott's Opinion
···
12/10/2018
I oppose unless there’s a mandate toward sustainability, oil drilling will be good for no one in the long term.
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Ryan's Opinion
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12/10/2018
It feels super strange to say nay, but after reading what is there it just seems like this bill lets you see what you want to see in it while lowering restrictions without giving a whole lot of support. I agree with some other nays that any push for new energy development in 2018 that isn’t clearly renewable and a step toward a greener lower carbon output is simply tone deaf and likely self interest motivated. We all need to do much more for Native American communities, but this just seems too much like a step to enable exploitation. So from me a conflicted nay.
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The house Passed December 10th, 2018
    Passed by Voice Vote
      house Committees
      Committee on Natural Resources
      Committee on Energy and Commerce
  • The senate Passed November 29th, 2017
    Passed by Voice Vote
      senate Committees
      Committee on Indian Affairs
    IntroducedJanuary 30th, 2017

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What is Senate Bill S. 245?

This bill — the Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act Amendments of 2017 — would make various amendments to existing federal energy programs on tribal lands aimed at giving tribes more autonomy in developing energy resources on their lands. A breakdown of its provisions can be found below.

The bill would amend the Indian energy title of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to:

  • Provide a more effective and accessible way for Indian tribes to develop their energy resources and increase U.S. energy independence;

  • Streamline and bring greater certainty to the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ approval process for Tribal Energy Resource Agreements (TERAs);

  • Require more technical assistance and consultation with Indian tribes in the early stages of energy resource development;

  • Improve efficiency by authorizing tribes and certified third parties to conduct energy appraisals, in addition to the Secretary of the Interior;

  • Encourage the formation of joint tribal-industry ventures for purposes of developing tribal resources without secretarial approval, provided the tribe remains the majority owner and in control of the venture;

  • Direct the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to treat tribes like states and municipalities with regard to preferences for permits and original licenses for hydroelectric projects, where no preliminary permit has been issued;

  • Authorize tribal biomass demonstration projects under the Tribal Forest Protection Act of 2004 to assist tribes in securing reliable, long-term supplies of woody biomass materials (non-marketable timber) from neighboring federal lands for energy development

  • Make “intertribal organizations” eligible to participate in the Indian Energy Resource Development Program; and

  • Make “tribal energy development organizations” eligible for the DOE Loan Guarantee Program.

Additionally, this bill would direct the Dept. of Energy (DOE) to collaborate with the national laboratories to provide technical assistance to tribal governments. It also authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to provide technical assistance to tribes interested in developing energy plans for electrification, energy efficiency, electricity generation, transmission planning, water planning; permitting for oil, gas, and renewable energy, in addition to plans to develop energy resources while protecting natural, historic, and cultural resources. Finally, the bill would streamline certain permitting procedures by removing approval requirements by the Secretary of the Interior for terms not to exceed 30 years.

Impact

Tribes; tribal lands; energy development; federal energy programs; DOE; BIA; TERAs; FERC; Indian Energy Resource Development Program; DOE Loan Guarantee Program; and the Secretary of the Interior.

Cost of Senate Bill S. 245

$1.00 Million
The CBO estimates that implementing this bill would cost approximately $1 million in additional funding for the Department of Energy.

More Information

In-DepthSen. John Hoeven (R-ND) introduced this bill to provide Indian tribes with greater autonomy over the management and development of their energy resources:

“Indian tribes should have the same opportunities to develop their natural resources as any other sovereign nation. For years, Washington’s overregulation has hurt tribal energy development and stymied economic growth in Indian Country. This commonsense bill will cut red tape and provide tribes with greater flexibility to develop energy resources to best meet the needs of their local communities.”

Mark Fox, chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, supports this bill as a way to clear some of the barriers to Indian energy development:

“The MHA Nation appreciates Senator Hoeven’s work to pass Indian energy legislation. Our reservation is in the middle of the most active oil and gas play in the United States, but barriers to Indian energy development stand in our way. This bill would help streamline the permitting process and provide options to tribes so that we can more fully benefit from the development of our resources.”

Clement Frost, chairman of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, adds that amendments to the 2005 Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act are needed to perfect the Tribal Energy Resource Agreement mechanism:

“Energy development on [tribal] lands generates hundreds of jobs and household incomes to tribal members and surrounding families alike. The 2005 Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act was an important step toward supporting tribal energy development, but amendments are needed to perfect the [TERA] mechanism, which is an important tool to provide willing tribes with a process to govern the development of their energy resources without costly and burdensome secretarial reviews, approvals, and oversight.”

Randy Manion, manager of the Western Area Power Administration Renewable Resource Program at the DOE’s Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs, notes that TERAs are currently underused due to “a variety of structural, conceptual flaws and issues” with their design:

“[A] big component of S 245 is to try to take a whack at correcting some of what Congress thought it got right in 2005, but clearly became points of contention since the tribes never picked it up and used it as the tool that Congress thought it would be. Now of course, what has happened since that time is we've passed the HEARTH Act, and we have several dozen tribes that are – not only – that either have compacts or have compacts in negotiation under the HEARTH Act for energy development. And I think really the HEARTH Act has pretty much eclipsed and overtaken where the TERAs proposed to be back in 2005… But as tribes consistently tell us, they want as many tools in the toolbox as they can. So if it's worth keeping TERAs on the books, this particular bill proposes to try to fix some of those default – defects. And there are a variety of ways in which they try to do that, including trying to streamline and make more effective the certification process of the tribe entering into the TERA. They are redefining tribal energy resource development organizations, or the bill proposes to do that. It proposes to provide a variety of financial assistance in lieu of activities by the Secretary, and streamlining the process for certification of eligible – a tribe in order to negotiate the TERAs.”

Shawn Reagan, a research fellow at the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC), argues that federal control over tribal lands stunts energy development on these lands and impoverishes tribes:

“[F]ederal control of Indian lands largely deprives tribes of the opportunity to benefit from such wealth. Throughout Indian Country, the vast majority of energy resources are undeveloped. Indian lands are managed in trust by the federal government. Any attempt to explore or develop resources on tribal lands must endure a costly rigmarole of bureaucracy and regulations. Making matters worse, the legacy of the federal trusteeship of Indian lands has left most tribes with complicated property institutions that are virtually anathema to economic growth…. For many tribes, energy development is the primary revenue generator to fund education, infrastructure, and other public services on tribal land. Some also view energy development as a path to promoting tribal self-determination. Revenue from coal development on the Crow reservation in Montana, for instance, enables the tribe to control more of its own affairs apart from the federal government’s trusteeship of Indian lands… Energy development provides just one way for tribes to reestablish the wealth and prosperity that many Native Americans once enjoyed. Tribes are certainly not required to develop their energy resources, but government agencies should not deprive them of the opportunity… Sovereignty alone does not guarantee prosperity. With more control comes a greater responsibility to promote growth that benefits tribal communities and reduces reliance on the federal government. But as long as tribes are denied the right to control their own resources, they will remain locked in poverty and dependence. If tribes are given the dignity they deserve, they will have the opportunity to unleash the wealth of Indian nations.”

Jason Baldes, director of the Wind River Native Advocacy Center, agrees that there are benefits to tribes having control over energy development on reservations. However, he points out that “different tribes have different feelings about oil and gas and natural resource extraction,” which means that some tribes want to invest in renewable resources, rather than fossil fuels, while others will choose to pursue the immediate economic benefit of fossil fuels.

This bill passed the Senate unanimously with the support of seven cosponsors, including six Republicans and one Democrat. It then passed the House Committee on Natural Resources and now awaits a vote by the full House. It has the support of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, Southern Ute Indian Tribe, PERC, and Heritage Foundation.

A prior version of this bill cleared the Senate in 2016, but Congress wasn’t able to reconcile it with a more controversial House version that was opposed by the White House Office of Management and Budget.


Of NoteIn February 2017, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) added Indian energy programs to its 2017 High Risk List, citing inefficient management of Indian energy resources and the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ (BIA) development processes. The GAO reported that the BIA has limited opportunities for tribes and their members to develop energy resources, generate energy revenue, and improve their communities’ wellbeing.

According to the GAO, the BIA’s management shortcomings and other factors, including a complex regulatory framework, tribes’ limited capital and infrastructure, and varied tribal capacity, have hindered tribal energy development and led to missed development opportunities, lost revenue, and jeopardized projects’ visibility. Examples of this include:

  • Missed development opportunities: According to a tribal official, BIA took 18 months to review a wind lease. According to the developer of the project, the review time caused the project to be delayed and resulted in the project losing an interconnection agreement with the local utility. Without this agreement, the project has not been able to move forward, resulting in a loss of revenue for the tribe.

  • Lost revenue: According to a tribal official, BIA's review of some of its energy-related documents took as long as 8 years. In the meantime, the tribe estimates it lost more than $95 million in revenues it could have earned from tribal permitting fees, oil and gas severance taxes, and royalties.

  • Jeopardized viability of projects: One lease for a proposed utility-scale wind project took BIA more than 3 years to review and approve. According to a tribal official, the long review time has contributed to uncertainty about the continued viability of the project because data used to support the economic feasibility and environmental impact of the project became too old to accurately reflect current conditions.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 included an Indian Energy title, Title V, that was meant to deal with the delays and uncertainties that are inherent in the BIA’s energy leasing process. This bill provided tribes with an alternative way to develop their energy resources. However, tribes have not availed themselves of this new process. Several factors have deterred tribes from seeking tribal energy resource agreements (TERA). These factors include uncertainty about some TERA regulations, costs associated with assuming activities historically conducted by federal agencies, and a complex application process.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / miroslav_1)

AKA

Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act Amendments of 2017

Official Title

A bill to amend the Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self Determination Act of 2005, and for other purposes.

    The land belongs to them so they have the right to do as they please with it
    Like (61)
    Follow
    Share
    It allows leases and agreements so is that for fracking, drilling & mining on their land. Native Americans need to comment on this. Is it to help the people living there? Or open their lands to harmful development. Senate (GOP) passed it. I see more harm than good. An attempt to take over land by fossil fuel industry which will cause pollution and destruction.
    Like (40)
    Follow
    Share
    Yes, the Indian Tribes (whom we forcefully took their lands) should be allowed to develop & prosper on the few hundred acres the Government allows them! Why don't we bury our heads in shame for murdering & forcing them back & placing them in total dependence on the Government? They are smart & don't need to be controlled or limited!
    Like (39)
    Follow
    Share
    I oppose unless there’s a mandate toward sustainability, oil drilling will be good for no one in the long term.
    Like (32)
    Follow
    Share
    It feels super strange to say nay, but after reading what is there it just seems like this bill lets you see what you want to see in it while lowering restrictions without giving a whole lot of support. I agree with some other nays that any push for new energy development in 2018 that isn’t clearly renewable and a step toward a greener lower carbon output is simply tone deaf and likely self interest motivated. We all need to do much more for Native American communities, but this just seems too much like a step to enable exploitation. So from me a conflicted nay.
    Like (26)
    Follow
    Share
    S. 245 Indian Tribal Energy Develop & Self-Determination Act I’m in support Of and recommend passage of Senate bill S. 245 AKA the Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act Amendments of 2017 which would make various amendments to existing federal energy programs on tribal lands aimed at giving tribes more autonomy in developing energy resources on their lands. Currently, strict controls on energy development on tribal land make energy development there prohibitive. Giving tribes more autonomy to make decisions about energy development on their lands will empower them to use their lands’ natural resources to lift their communities out of poverty by creating jobs and supplying affordable energy to American consumers. SneakyPete. 👍🏻🇺🇸👍🏻🇺🇸👍🏻. 12*10*18.....
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    I would vote yes, but only if it reads clean and sustainable energy.
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    Let’s see, should the people from whom we stole the land approach having equal rights and equal say about their own homes to the people who stole their land? Give Amerindians the freedoms we stole.
    Like (14)
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    Our history proves that much was taken from Native Americans. Lands, which confined Native Americans, should be theirs to use as they decide. Native Americans have long treated wildlife, lands, waters and air, respectively. Certainly, scientific and conservational information should be provided regarding use of the lands to enrich their lives. What’s interesting here is that our government (especially #45’s administration rescinding of environmental protections placed since the mid1970’s), is destroying our air quality, waters, wildlife, and ecosystems, almost to the brink of irreparable loss. Yet, the same government wishes to dictate to the Native Americans what they can and cannot do on their lands. To prohibit Native Americans to choose for themselves, just continues the practice of hypocrisy that is rampant in our government today.
    Like (12)
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    It is their land. If we prefer they not use their land for their purposes. Then pay them an adequate amount of money to offset our abuse of authority. Unless the deed states no removal of underground minerals they should have the right to do so.
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    It would be up to the tribes to set this up
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    The federal government has used tribal lands for their own gain and sometimes that was done by force. The mistreatment of tribes needs to stop. The government claims the tribes are sovereign yet treats them as if they are not.
    Like (8)
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    I would like to know how Native Americans view this bill. Votes should be in accordance with their wishes.
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    Native Americans are statistically the most impoverished group of humans in America and the Bureau of Indian Affairs is full of mismanagement. I think the government needs to lay off sticking their fingers in the business of individulal groups, especially Native Americans. Let them have the freedom to choose what they want to do with their reservations and land. Letting them choose their own energy methods is a step in the right direction for the government to loosen their grip on people that need freedom.
    Like (7)
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    The real problem here is that politicians have given corporations the money and we have exploited the Native Americans ! Let’s work together exploring new opportunities in Energy and protecting the environment and put aside political lobbyist agendas .
    Like (6)
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    While only native Americans lived in North America, the climate remained pristine. They are the only culture wise enough to shepherd their climate.
    Like (5)
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    It's their land..Remember it was taken. They shouldn't need permission. Hell yeah..
    Like (5)
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    Indian tribal land should be sovereign land to do as they please on it. I mean... it is their land after all, we just came along and stole 99% of it.
    Like (4)
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    It's their property. You want a say in what happens to it, then buy it from them. Otherwise you can shove it.
    Like (4)
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    Heck yes, it’s their land.
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