(Washington, D.C.) – Wednesday, at a Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing, Vice-Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) spoke in favor of his “Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act Amendments of 2014” (S. 2132).
S. 2132 was introduced by Barrasso on March 13, 2014. The bill will give Indian tribes more tools to develop their energy resources and remove unnecessary barriers to economic development.
Excerpts of Senator Barrasso’s remarks at Wednesday’s hearing:
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, I appreciate your kind words and you’re right, it was Senator Dorgan when he was Chair of the Committee that brought this additional concern [of agency bureaucracy preventing development] when he brought a map of his home state of North Dakota here and saw how difficult it was on tribal lands to use the many resources that were on those lands.
“And that’s why I continue to come back time and time again. So I want to thank you for holding this hearing today on my bill, S. 2132, the ‘Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act Amendments of 2014.’
“I introduced this on March 13th and am joined by Senators McCain, Hoeven, Murkowski, Thune and Enzi as co-sponsors.
“The bill is largely similar to S.1684 which I introduced last Congress and this Committee favorably approved.
“We continue to advance this measure again because energy development on tribal lands is undeniably important.
“It’s a significant facilitator for jobs and economic growth in Indian country and for all of America.
“As reported by the National Congress of American Indians, tribal lands hold nearly one quarter of all American onshore oil and gas reserves. But they produce less than five percent of the domestic oil and gas supply.
“Tribes have called upon Congress and the Administration to assist in finding a way to tap into that potential.
“The Energy Policy Act of 2005 attempted to do that through Tribal Energy Resource Agreements, TERAs, as you referred to those Mr. Chairman, between tribes and the Secretary of the Interior.
“These agreements allowed tribes to execute leases, business agreements, and rights-of-way for energy development without further Secretarial approval.
“The agreements were intended to reduce bureaucracy and increase access to energy development.
“However, uncertainty in the review process for these agreements has prevented tribes from applying for any agreement.
“My bill is intended to address this uncertainty and other tribal recommendations in several key respects.
“First, the legislation would streamline the approval process for Tribal Energy Resource Agreements on Indian lands.
“This bill would provide clear deadlines and requirements for approvals or disapprovals of a tribal application for the agreements.
“In addition, S.2132 would allow tribes and third parties to perform mineral appraisals to expedite Secretarial approval of tribal energy transactions.
“Moreover, S.2132 would also encourage the development of renewable energy resources by authorizing tribal biomass demonstration projects.
“In harvesting biomass materials, tribes could experience multiple benefits.
“These biomass projects would promote tribal forest health and economies, would create jobs, would reduce the risk of destructive wildfires.
“Mr. Chairman, this legislation has been pending for quite some time.
“It enjoys wide tribal support and is narrowly tailored in a way to provide procedural measures needed to kick-start energy development.
“Larger, substantive reforms for tribal energy development have not been included in this specific bill. They certainly deserve consideration by Congress.
“However, that would require a more extensive debate and potentially involve multiple Committees.
“So Mr. Chairman, I want to continuing to work with you on those initiatives in the future.
“In the interim, I urge my colleagues to advance this legislation so it can be signed into law this year—and tribes can move toward energy self-determination.”