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Tribal energy policy plan takes shape

WASHINGTON – Indian country is one step closer to seeing federal lawmakers take action on tribal energy policy.

At a meeting of tribal leaders and congressional officials Sept. 30, Senate Committee on Indian Affairs staffers said lawmakers are preparing to introduce legislation that will account for several tribal energy interests.

Proposals under consideration would streamline and promote Indian energy development, such as by eliminating financial disincentives. Another goal is to enhance federal programs meant to support Indian energy development and efficiency.

Staffers predicted that legislation would likely be introduced pending a short list of other legislative matters currently capturing the attention of Congress members.

The informal discussion, which took place in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, was one of several consultation sessions hosted by SCIA lawmakers throughout the country in recent weeks. The objective is to gauge tribal interests regarding energy policy.

The first two staff-led roundtables were held in Bismarck, N.D. Sept. 17 and in Denver Sept. 18. Upcoming meetings are scheduled to be held in California, Oregon and Florida.

Earlier in September, the committee released an Indian Energy and Energy Efficiency concept paper. The paper is based on previous congressional testimony and other statements from tribal leaders.

In the paper, the committee identified three major barriers to Indian energy development: (1) outdated laws and cumbersome regulations for tribal energy development and programs; (2) lack of tribal access to the transmission grid; and (3) difficulty in obtaining financing and investment for energy projects.

Tribal leaders at the meeting seemed generally pleased with the concept paper and used it as a starting point to discuss more energy issues, including those focused on technology, transmission, tax credits and taxes.

Staffers said they are currently considering many issues brought up at the consultation meetings. They encouraged tribal leaders to weigh in via e-mail at energy@indian.senate.gov or by fax at (202) 228-2589.