Home > News > More Headlines > Tribes weigh effects of energy legislation on trust
Printer friendly version
Tribes weigh effects of energy legislation on trust

Citing the Supreme Court's recent ruling that pitted tribal self-determination against the federal trust responsibility, tribal and Indian leaders on Wednesday raised concerns about pro-energy legislation weaving its way through Congress.

The Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing was called to receive testimony on two nearly identical bills that encourage energy development on Indian lands by eliminating bureaucratic hurdles and promoting tribal sovereignty. With the potential to reap huge economic benefits from untapped oil, gas, coal and other resources, tribal representatives said they supported the goals of the legislation.

But in light of the Supreme Court's holding that the Department of Interior has no fiduciary obligations for mineral leases because existing law puts tribes in control, they questioned the impact of the new bills.

"We want to increase our exercise of our sovereignty," said David Lester, executive director of the Council of Energy Resource Tribes (CERT), which represents more than 40 tribes, "but we don't want a decrease in trust protection."

Compounding those fears was the testimony of Theresa Rosier, counselor to acting assistant secretary Aurene Martin. In response to questions about the ruling and its relation to the legislation, she said the government would not be liable for energy development deals that may not be in the best interest of tribal beneficiaries.

"There is a trust responsibility -- a limited trust responsibility," she told the committee.

By a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court on March 4 struck down the Navajo Nation's landmark $600 million claim. The tribe alleged that the Department of Interior violated its trust responsibilities by approving a bad deal for a valuable coal deposit.

The proposed bills open tribes up to the same threat because they lessen the Interior's role. "It would permit the government of the United States to wash its hands and say it's none of our business," observed Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), vice chairman of the Indian panel.

Arvin S. Trujillo, executive director of the Navajo Nation Division of Natural Resources, said his tribe's view of the legislation was based entirely on the court's ruling. "The paradigm has switched for us as of March 4," he told lawmakers.

The bills -- S.424, the Tribal Self-Sufficiency Act, and S.522, the Native American Energy Development and Self-Determination Act -- authorize tribes to develop their own energy development regulations in hopes of speeding up resource exploitation. But even though the Secretary of Interior has to approve these regulations, the bills absolve the federal government of any "losses" a tribe or tribal member may incur as a result.

The government's trust responsibility wasn't the only concern raised about the bills. Other tribal representatives presented the committee with a laundry list of issues affecting taxation of oil and gas proceeds, involvement of states and non-Indians in tribal decision making processes, applicability of federal environmental law, Indian preference, renewable energy, rights-of-way and review of tribal financial assets.

Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), committee chairman, is the primary sponsor of S.522. He said he hoped to address the concerns raised by the tribes although he was surprised that the Southern Ute Tribe of Colorado, known for its energy development prowess, opposed provisions designed to reduce red tape at the Interior.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) is the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the primary sponsor of S.424. He also pledged to work with tribes on any proposed changes.

Campbell said he may combine the bills into one package.

Get the Bills:
S.424 | S. 522

Relevant Documents:
SCIA Witness List (3/19)

Relevant Links:
Council of Energy Resource Tribes - http://www.certredearth.com

Related Stories:
Navajo Nation fallout considered (3/7)
Supreme Court upholds common law trust claim (3/5)
High court ruling makes 'passive' trustee of U.S. (3/5)
A mixed bag for Indian trust (3/5)
Supreme Court issues trust decisions (3/4)
Panel predicts Apache victory (12/4)
Court considers Navajo dispute (12/3)
U.S. pressed on trust duties (12/3)

Copyright © Indianz.Com

Stay Connected

On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud

More Headlines

Native Sun News: Lakota swimmers promote healthy lifestyles (11/30)
Ivan Star Comes Out: Indoctrinated at Indian boarding school (11/30)
Brandon Ecoffey: President of tribal college takes aim at paper (11/30)
Bobbi Rose Nez: Big Brothers Big Sisters reaches Native youth (11/30)
Terry Brunner: USDA helping tribes build stronger economies (11/30)
Alice Soscia: Connecticut tribes share wealth with community (11/30)
Brigid Harrison: Lenni-Lenape Nation battles for recognition (11/30)
Supreme Court throws wrench into Native Hawaiian election (11/30)
Official in Paraguay fired for kicking Indian woman in stomach (11/30)
Jamul Indian Village slated to open $390M casino in July 2016 (11/30)
Native Sun News: Tribal member speaks out against fracking (11/27)
Lakota Country Times: Rosebud mothers address meth issues (11/27)
Tim Giago: Walk a mile in the moccasins of Native Americans (11/27)
Vince Two Eagles: Focus on being thankful this holiday season (11/27)
Native Sun News: Keystone fighters celebrate permit's defeat (11/27)
Kevin Leecy: Tribes remain a vital segment of our community (11/27)
Steven Newcomb: Even media treats our nations as 'nothing' (11/27)
Ray Cook: Thanksgiving flies in the face of original Americans (11/27)
Terese Mailhot: Racism prevails in American popular culture (11/27)
Ilya Somin: Persistent 'myth' justified taking of Indian lands (11/27)
Ak-Chin Indian Community sued for same-sex marriage ban (11/27)
Cahuilla Band celebrates new travel center at gaming facility (11/27)
Opinion: Don't break promise to Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe (11/27)
Native Sun News: Family questions FBI on reservation death (11/25)
Lakota Country Times: Rosebud students earn top scholarship (11/25)
Brandon Ecoffey: Making a difference for people on Pine Ridge (11/25)
Yurok Tribe: Mourning the passing of 'visionary' Troy Fletcher (11/25)
Ned Blackhawk: Supreme Court case jeopardizes tribal rights (11/25)
Steve Russell: The real origins of the world's terrorism crisis (11/25)
Ramona Peters: Sharing a Wampanoag story of Thanksgiving (11/25)
Yatibaey Evans: Let's all teach the truth about Native history (11/25)
Martie Simmons: Every Native parent dreads this time of year (11/25)
Eric Metaxas: The 'miracle' of Squanto and first Thanksgiving (11/25)
Presidential Medal of Freedom presented to late Billy Frank Jr (11/25)
Oneida Nation opens first branch location of tribal-owned bank (11/25)
Virginia tribes continue to pay tribute required by 1677 treaty (11/25)
Chukchansi Tribe reaches new agreement for shuttered casino (11/25)
Poarch Band to welcome visitors to $65M expansion at casino (11/25)
Stillaguamish Tribe debuts eatery and microbrewery at casino (11/25)
Connecticut tribes consider proposals for third gaming facilty (11/25)
Mark Pilarski: Why are games different at some tribal casinos? (11/25)
Tribes seek support for Native language instruction programs (11/24)
Rep. Mullin confirms divisions in Indian Country on Carcieri fix (11/24)
more headlines...


Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.