Tester: Develop Indian Country’s energy resources

Tribes’ resources promise economic growth, new jobs

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester is pushing responsible energy development as a ‘powerful tool’ to create jobs and spur economic growth in Montana’s Indian Country.

Indian tribes are the third-largest owners of mineral resources in the United States.  Tester said that Montana’s tribes will benefit by tapping into the energy potential on their lands. 
“Energy development has the power to provide badly needed economic development on many reservations,” said Tester, speaking at a Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing earlier this week.  “Working together, this powerful tool will empower Indian Country.”

The U.S. Interior Department is responsible for helping tribes develop their energy resources, but for years progress has stalled due to administrative delays and outdated regulations. 
Tester asked hearing participants, including Thomas “Stoney” Anketell from Fort Peck, how to overcome delays in processing mineral leases.

Anketell, Councilman with the Fort Peck Assiniboine & Sioux Tribes, said the Bureau of Indian Affairs needs to hire more technical experts and compared the process on tribal lands to the process on privately-held lands.

“It shouldn’t take months and years to get approval,” said Anketell, who Tester invited to testify.  “If it doesn’t take that long on off-reservation lands, that’s certainly where the business will flow.  The Bureau of Indian Affairs is tying up land and that’s grossly unfair.”

Montana’s tribes already develop limited amounts of coal, oil and natural gas and have explored the feasibility of wind and biomass.  Tester added that as Montana tribes bring more resources online it will be vital to protect public safety, maintain infrastructure, and safeguard tribal heritage. 
Tester, Montana’s only member of the Senate Indian Affairs’ Committee, also recently helped Indian Country by supporting a major investment in water projects on the Rocky Boy’s and Fort Peck reservations.