Energy & Minerals

Tribal energy resources are vast, largely untapped, and critical to America’s efforts to achieve energy security and independence, reduce greenhouse gases, and promote economic development. They are also integral to tribal efforts to generate jobs and to improve tribal members’ standard of living.

The Department of the Interior estimates that undeveloped reserves of coal, natural gas, and oil on tribal lands could generate nearly $1 trillion in revenues for tribes and surrounding communities. The Department of Energy estimates that wind power from tribal lands could satisfy 32 percent of total US electricity demand, and tribal solar resources could generate twice the total amount of energy needed to power the country.

NCAI urges Congress and the Administration to remove barriers to the deployment of these energy resources that offer immense benefits to tribes, Native citizens, surrounding communities, and the American economy. Major obstacles to the deployment of projects include outmoded bureaucratic processes and insufficient access to financial incentives, transmission, and federal programs. The vast majority of tribal energy resources currently being used are not tribally owned and operated. Further development of tribal energy would contribute significantly to national energy independence, clean energy, economic development, and job creation.

Many tribal homes lack access to electricity and affordable heating sources. Some reservations with vast energy potential are home to some of the poorest tribal communities in America. Tribal access to transmission lines that could bring new energy sources online or electrify communities continues to be a challenge. This vast potential is also inhibited by a multitude of obstacles experienced only by tribal governments, including a myriad of bureaucratic processes, difficult procurement of financing, and inequitable exclusion from important federal programs.

NCAI works with tribal leaders to determine and address the obstacles to tribal energy development, particularly those that can be addressed by Congress and the Administration. NCAI hopes to help devise and implement strategies to increase tribal self-determination over natural resources so that tribes are able to choose the most suitable avenue of energy development for the benefit of their people, their sovereignty, and the nation.

Support is also growing for tribal green building codes to increase energy efficiency in new buildings. NCAI is a member of the Tribal Green Building Codes Workgroup that seeks to “advance tribal goals in developing, implementing and enforcing culturally relevant green building codes, policies and programs leading to healthier, more sustainable communities.” Increasing energy efficiency in buildings can save money on utility bills, create jobs, save energy, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Energy efficiency makes housing more resistant to extreme temperatures and can be done in ways consistent with tribal practices and cultures. NCAI is working to increase tribal inclusion in federal weatherization assistance programs so that tribal members can have more comfortable homes and a slice of the jobs provided by this industry.

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