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Tribes want role in renewable energy quest

Oct 23, 2009 - McClatchy-Tribune Regional News - Jim Myers Tulsa World, Okla.

Osage Nation Principal Chief Jim Gray told a key Senate committee Thursday that tribes are being locked out of renewable energy opportunities by bureaucratic delays, lack of financing and inadequate access to the national transmission grid.

Representing a consortium of tribes, Gray said they are hungry to be a part of such opportunities that come along only every generation or so.

Opportunities on wind and solar energy could be a solution to the grinding poverty that still exists in Indian Country, he said in testimony before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

Gray and witnesses from other tribes urged lawmakers to address a process that is too cumbersome, remains understaffed or staffed with inexperienced employees, and discourages energy companies from doing business on tribal land.

They said an application for a permit can take several years longer when tribal land is involved, compared with one on nontribal land.

Gray also spoke of tribes' inability to employ current tax-based credits and other financial incentives for renewable energy development.

When the hearing turned to developing a one-stop-shop approach, Gray encouraged the committee to take a look at such an approach used for years at the Osage Nation.

CommitteeChairman Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., expressed interest in looking at the Osage Nation experience as he and others determined how to move forward on addressing such problems as antiquated laws and cumbersome regulations.

Citing one example that took nearly 50 steps to complete, Dorgan said it should be as easy to get an energy project going on tribal land as it is elsewhere.

"That is unbelievable to me," he said.

Dorgan announced plans to ask the U.S Department of the Interior to appoint one of its officials to work with the committee on the issue, and he accepted a suggestion from Gray to do the same at the U.S. Department of Energy.

Tribes do not need more broken promises, Dorgan said.

Jim Myers (202) 484-1424


Updated: 2003/07/28