Senate Passes Bennet-Backed Bill to Break Down Barriers to Energy Development in Indian Country

Washington, DC - The Senate last week passed a bipartisan bill introduced by Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, along with Senators John Barrasso (R-WY) and Jon Tester (D-MT), to give Indian tribes more tools to develop their energy resources and to remove unnecessary barriers to economic development in Indian Country.

"This commonsense bill gives tribes the autonomy they should have to develop their own energy resources," Bennet said. "It will cut red tape and allow tribes to create jobs and boost economic development on their lands. The House should quickly take up and pass this bipartisan bill."

In addition to Senators Bennet, Barrasso, and Tester, the Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act Amendments of 2015 (S. 209) is cosponsored by Senators John McCain (R-AZ), John Hoeven (R-ND), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Mike Enzi (R-WY), and Cory Gardner (R-CO).

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 included an Indian Energy title - Title V. Title V was enacted to deal with the delays and uncertainties inherent in the Bureau of Indian Affairs' energy leasing process. Title V was intended to provide Indian tribes with an alternative way to develop their energy resources.

The bipartisan bill includes a number of amendments to the process established in 2005. The legislation cuts red tape and makes it easier for Indian tribes to develop their own resources. It also improves the process for approving "tribal energy resource agreements" (TERAs) and makes the TERA approval process more predictable for Indian tribes.

The bill addresses other aspects of Indian energy development, including a "biomass demonstration project" for biomass energy production from Indian forest lands, rangelands and other federal lands in accordance with program requirements developed by the secretaries of Interior and Agriculture after consultation with Indian tribes. It would facilitate the development of tribal biomass projects by providing Indian tribes with access to more reliable and potentially long-term supplies of woody biomass materials.

Senator Barrasso originally introduced the Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act in 2011.

S. 209 passed out of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on February 4, 2015.

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