Opinion

Opinion: Energy development can help secure tribal independence






Southern Ute Tribe headquarters in Ignacio, Colorado. Photo from Southern Ute Tribe

Chris Faulkner, an energy company executive, calls for more energy development in Indian Country:
Natural gas and oil development can strengthen American Indian communities while upholding their traditional values, as Colorado's Southern Ute tribe has demonstrated. The Tribe carefully consulted with scientists, lawyers, auditors and other leading energy experts, and then established the Red Willow Energy business, which it runs independently.

Levi Pesata, president of New Mexico's Jicarilla Apache Nation, recently explained to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs why resource development doesn't need to come at the expense of stewardship of tribal lands. "We have been involved in the oil and gas industry for about 60 years," Pesata said, "... the Nation has been diligent in designating and protecting pristine areas as well as sacred sites and spiritual and culturally sensitive areas from disturbance."

But despite the extraordinary opportunity oil and natural-gas development offers to American Indians, only 12 percent of tribal lands with potential reserves have so far been developed.

A tangled bureaucracy accounts for much of the problem. On non-tribal lands, the number of steps companies must complete to start exploring can, at times, be counted on a single hand -- whereas on tribal lands, they must wrangle with four federal agencies and a jaw-dropping 49 separate regulatory steps.

Get the Story:
Chris Faulkner: Local energy expansion would fuel tribal independence (The Friendswood Journal 8/30)