Tester, Walsh champion measure to allow tribes to develop energy resources

Senators’ bill will cut red tape and streamline development

(U.S. SENATE) – Senators Jon Tester and John Walsh are working to ensure Native American tribes can more easily develop and manage their energy resources.

Tester and Walsh are co-sponsoring the Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act that cuts red tape and streamlines the development process. The bipartisan bill passed out of Tester’s committee this week.

Tester, the Chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, offered amendments to the bill to extend the Crow tribe’s surface leasing authority, giving the tribe flexibility to enter into long-term leases of up to 99 years, rather than the current 25-year limit. Another of Tester’s amendments allows the Interior Department to place proceeds from bidding deposits into interest-bearing accounts in order to maximize tribes’ revenue from competitively-bid oil and gas development.

Bid deposits and “earnest money” are currently held by the Department in escrow accounts that do not accumulate interest.

“This bill encourages development of all of our state’s natural resources,” Tester said. “From hydro to biomass, this bill will give tribes the tools they need to create jobs, strengthen local economies and contribute to our nation’s energy independence.”

“The federal government must be a partner to our tribal nations, not a roadblock to success and prosperity,” said Walsh. “This bill eliminates road blocks and allows tribes to generate economic benefits through increased, responsible natural resource development.”

In April, the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) testified in support of the bill during a Senate hearing. CSKT is in the process of purchasing the Kerr Dam, a nearly 200 Megawatt hydroelectric facility that is located in the heart of the Flathead Reservation. This bill will make it easier for CSKT to further develop additional hydro generation sites on its reservation.

“Indian energy development is a key component of our ability to control our destiny and provide for our people,” said Carole Lankford, Vice Chairwoman, Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Nation. “We look forward to working further with our Senators to figure out how CSKT and other tribes can further maximize our energy potential, and we invite future discussions on how to create win-win scenarios for both the tribes and the federal government.”

The Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act Amendments of 2014 will:

  • Streamline the oil and gas leasing process for tribes that enter into agreements with the Interior Secretary
  • Create a better path to obtaining permits and original licenses for hydroelectric projects
  • Encourage biomass development by allow tribes to harvest timber from federal land
  • Allow tribes to directly apply for weatherization initiatives
  • Authorize tribes and certified third parties to conducts energy appraisals

The bill is sponsored by Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and is available online HERE.