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The Voter’s Speakeasy featuring unbiased reporting and insight into life at Vote Smart from our staff, interns, and volunteers.

The Native American Energy Act: Economic Prosperity or Traditional Tribal Values?

2016 July 13

The state of American Indian land sovereignty, health, and welfare becomes more and more complex as the demand for American energy independence grows.

The Native American Energy Act, passed on 8 October 2015, introduced by Don E. Young (AK-R) and Paul Gosar (AZ-R), clears the way for expanded energy development on Native American land. This new legislation speeds up the judicial review process for new drilling projects, streamlines leases, appraisals, and other land agreements, and limits outside public comments about tribal energy development.

In March 2015, the Department of the Interior passed rules in order to support safe and environmentally responsible hydraulic fracturing. These fracking rules addressed well integrity, water protection, and disclosure of chemicals to the public. Under the Native American Energy Act, these environmental protections no longer apply to American Indian land.

In addition, the legislation authorizes the Navajo Nation to conduct mineral leasing independently of the Department of the Interior, as long as the land has been previously approved for development.

Many tribal nations are seated upon an abundance of natural energy resources, such as oil, natural gas, and coal. However, 15 million acres of potential energy resources on these lands remain undevelopedSupporters of the bill argue that the Native American Energy Act relieves many of the federal regulatory burdens that hinder tribes from capitalizing on their wealth of energy resources. Those who approve of the bill believe that the act will support job creation on reservations, a more diversified economy, and increased tribal sovereignty.

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