Tribal Clean Energy Development: 2017 Changes and 2018 Opportunities

Executive Orders and Agency Changes to Watch

During 2017 there were several key sets of action – at the federal, state, local, and industry levels –that have, or will, directly impact Indian clean energy development opportunities. Some of these actions will benefit Indian tribes seeking to develop clean energy resources or becoming more energy self-sufficient.  Other actions will likely be to tribes’ detriment.

2017 brought a substantial amount of change from the new Trump Administration related to support for energy development and energy regulations. President Trump issued several new Executive Orders that began the “deregulatory” efforts to promote more fossil fuel energy development – especially on federal lands – to deemphasize climate change and conservation, and to reduce the regulatory burdens of energy development.

We have summarized a list of important Presidential Executive Orders, federal agency actions, industry trends and key legislation impacting energy project development on Tribal lands. You can view the full article by clicking the link below or the attached PDF document.

  1. Environmental reviews and approvals for all infrastructure projects should be expedited, placing high priority on projects including pipelines and improving the U.S. electric grid.  Many of these actions could support faster development of clean energy projects on tribal lands.
  2. Under review are regulations which burden the development of affordable forms of energy and impose significant costs on the siting, permitting, production, utilization, transmission, or delivery of energy resources.
  3. For energy generation, transmission and pipeline projects, federal agencies are expected to conduct environmental reviews in a timely manner and expedite infrastructure permitting within two years, on average.
  4. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has begun the rulemaking process to repeal the Clean Power Plant final rule, impacting four power plants and renewable energy development opportunities on tribal lands.
  5. The Department of the Interior (DOI) has repealed the hydraulic fracturing rule, postponed compliance with the methane flaring rule, and rescinded the royalty valuation rules—both applicable to oil and gas development on tribal lands.
  6. The DOI has also taken several actions to review and change regulations, policies and guidance related to energy infrastructure mitigation, including policies for landscape-scale mitigation and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) mitigation.
  7. Agencies have proposed streamlined NEPA processing and BIA approvals for tribal energy projects on tribal trust lands down to a one-year time frame.
  8. The EPA has revised its review and enforcement of Title I and Title V air quality permits, which will possibly impact Tribes that seek to develop their fossil fuel resources, or potentially develop fossil fuel electricity generation plants on tribal lands.
  9. A number of industry actions may encourage more project development for tribal clean energy projects. These include opportunities to partner with corporations pursuing corporate clean energy goals and the tax incentives for renewable energy in the newly enacted tax cut bill.
  10. DOI has issued its 2018 Regulatory Agenda, addressing the following regulations which impact energy development on tribal lands:
  • Right of Way regulations, related to waiving bonding requirements
  • NEPA regulations to streamline the review process
  • Fee to Trust regulations for “off-reservation” applications
  • Tribal Energy Resource Agreements to clarify the definition of “inherent federal function”

Clean energy development will still likely continue at a relatively rapid pace—despite the change in federal emphasis from clean energy/climate change initiatives to support for oil, gas, coal. For Tribes with clean energy resources, there are still strong market and community development reasons to continue to evaluate and develop clean energy projects for economic and community development, commercial, and energy self-sufficiency purposes.

For more detailed information about important federal government actions, specific actions in your state, key legislation and industry trends, click here to view the full article or view the PDF.