The NCSL Blog


By Mark Wolf

Tribes have a litany of energy-development success stories and need the government to get out of the way so they can produce more.

That was the messSenator John Hoevenage from Senator John Hoeven (R-N.D.) during  a session on "A New Era in Government, Energy and Sovereignty" at the Tribal Energy Summit today in Washington, D.C. The Summit is hosted by the Department of Energy in conjunction with NCSL.

"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." said Hoeven, adding that energy resources brought in over $1 billion in revenue for tribes in 2014.

"“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," said Hoeven, adding that North Dakota produces a million barrels of oil a day, second only to Texas.

If the Three Affiliated Tribes (Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation) reservation was a state unto itself it would be the ninth largest oil producer in the nation.

"In 2006, they only had one oil well," said Hoeven.

In neighboring Montana, the Big Metal Coal Mine, owned by the Crow, has 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.’," he said.

The Moapa River Indian Reservation in Arizona has the first solar plant on tribal land, he said, which produces enough power for 110,000 new homes..

"This is breaking new ground," he said.

“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.

"That’s why I’ve introduced the Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-determination Act of 2017," said Hoeven.

“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.."

Mark Wolf is editor of the NCSL Blog.

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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.