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In D.C., tribe testifies on impediments to tribal energy development

Chairman Jimmy R. Newton Jr.
Photo Credit: Ace Stryker | The Southern Ute Drum

Hello and greetings. This is Chairman Jimmy R. Newton Jr. reporting back to you, the tribal membership, after a trip I made last week to Washington, D.C., to share the tribe’s input on new energy legislation for Indian Country.

The tribe was invited by the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs to participate in a roundtable discussion to discuss energy development in Indian Country, and specifically to discuss tribes’ recommendations for energy legislation impacting tribal lands. Over the past decade, there have been several attempts to address the barriers to energy development on tribal lands, and our tribe has been closely involved in those efforts.

By participating in the roundtable, I had the opportunity to directly communicate with the staff that will be largely responsible for drafting energy legislation, and I seized the chance to highlight the impediments to development on our tribal lands. As I told the congressional staff at the June 5 roundtable, these impediments include funding and staffing shortages at the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs and burdensome federal requirements.

Together these result in competitive disadvantages for development on tribal lands, especially where the non-Indian fee lands next to us do not have to follow the same burdensome federal requirements.

I offered solutions that would increase tribal self-determination in this realm while also removing unnecessary roadblocks. These solutions include allowing for independent, tribal review and approval of projects on tribal lands without requiring separate federal review and approval of such projects. Tribal authority would preempt prior or separate federal regulatory requirements.

The federal government should instead focus on providing technical assistance and enforcement of tribal agreements.

In addition, instead of providing federal funds to bureau management at the national and regional level, Congress should redirect federal funds to tribes and bureau field offices. The tribe’s comments appeared to be helpful; the committee staff noted they appreciated them and had not yet heard such a concise description of the problems with current legislation.

I am hopeful that the tribe’s input will help to committee to craft legislation that will address the tribe’s concerns.

While in Washington, I also participated with other tribal leaders and attorneys in a meeting to discuss new regulations that would affect hydrofracking on tribal lands. The tribe continues to monitor these new regulations and will continue to submit comments to help shape the law.

Thank you for taking the time to read this update. I will continue to provide information to the tribal membership regarding the Tribal Council’s travel and efforts on behalf of the membership.

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