Tribal leaders ask Congress to cut red tape for energy work

Posted: Apr 6, 2011

Written by

ELIZABETH BEWLEY, Great Falls Tribune
Wind energy

Tribal leaders urged lawmakers last week to unravel the red tape that has delayed energy development on American Indian land."We want development of our natural resources. Nevertheless, we've been held back for many reasons," Navajo Nation president Ben Shelly told the House natural resource panel's Indian affairs subcommittee. "I believe that leaders want to help, but that message seems to get lost in the federal government."

Tribal lands contain an estimated 10 percent of the nation's renewable and nonrenewable energy resources, but more than 15 million acres of Indian land with such resources have not been developed, said Rep. Don Young, the Alaska Republican who chairs the subcommittee.

Young and tribal leaders said burdensome federal laws and regulations are to blame. Because the federal government holds tribal lands in trust, drilling or building renewable energy plants on reservations requires federal approval.

Any energy project on federal land must be approved by agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management and the Environmental Protection Agency. But on tribal lands, developers must also get the Bureau of Indian Affairs' stamp of approval.

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