Washington, D.C. – Today, the House passed a major victory for American Indians and Alaska Natives, H.R. 538 – “The Native American Energy Act.” Alaska Congressman Don Young, who sponsored the legislation to promote energy development on Indian and Alaska Native Corporation lands, applauded the bipartisan bill's passage by a vote of 254 to 173.
Congressman Young speaking on behalf of the Native American Energy Act on the House floor (click here to watch). Young was responsible for managing floor activities during consideration of H.R. 538.
“The Native American Energy Act is critically important to Alaska Natives and American Indians because it levels the playing field for responsible resource development, a critically important step towards self-determination,” said Congressman Young. “The bill contains a number of important measures to reduce the hurdles and obstacles for energy and resource development imposed by the federal government. I’m pleased to see bipartisan support of this commonsense piece of legislation, and encourage the Senate to act in a manner that truly supports this nation’s trust responsibility with our First People.”
Young’s legislation works to resolve longstanding resource and economic development issues for tribes, which have regularly encountered obstacles not found on private or state lands. By developing legislation to streamline permitting, deter frivolous lawsuits and prevent exorbitant federal permitting costs on tribal lands, Young hopes to increase opportunity for tribes to govern more aspects of energy development on their lands.
“Beyond the many provisions that assist lower 48 tribes, this legislation contains important Judicial review provisions for Alaska Native Corporations that work to eliminate attacks by outside special interest groups. Overall, this bill is based on the principle that tribes, not the federal government or special interests, are the best stewards of their lands.”
The federal government currently holds roughly 56 million acres of land into trust for the benefit of Indians. There are also 44 million acres of lands owned in fee by Alaska Native Corporations. These lands are estimated to hold more than 10% of the nation’s energy potential, yet tribes are far behind non-Indian landowners in terms of producing energy from their lands.
H.R. 538 is supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; the National Congress of American Indians; the Navajo Nation; the Southern Ute Indian Tribe; The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation; the Mandan, Hidatsa & Arikara Nation; the Ute Indian Tribe; the Intertribal Timber Council; and the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians.
This summer, the GAO issued a report called “Indian Energy Development --- Poor Management by BIA Has Hindered Energy Development on Indian Lands.” Click here to review its findings, which support policy changes included in H.R. 538.
Click here for more information and additional video on H.R. 538.
Click here for the one-pager on H.R. 538 and here for more information on the legislation.