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Navajo Nation hails movement on controversial Indian energy bill






Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye with youth on the reservation. Photo from Facebook

A controversial Indian energy bill counts a prominent supporter in Indian Country -- the leader of the Navajo Nation.

President Russell Begaye said H.R.538, the Native American Energy Act, will directly benefit his people. The bill allows the tribe to enter into energy development agreements without seeking approval from the Bureau of Indian Affairs for every single change.

“This bill will help our people regain governance over resources on our own lands. In particular, Section 8 of the bill authorizes the nation to negotiate and enter into mineral leases without the time, monetary, and sovereignty cost of review and approval by the Interior secretary for actions on our own lands," Begaye said in a perss release. "The current leasing approval process is rife with delays and can serve as a major and unnecessary impediment for energy and job growth in Indian Country."

The House passed the bill last Thursday by a 254 to 173 vote that fell along party lines. Of the three Democrats who represent districts on the Navajo Nation, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Arizona) was the only one who supported it, Begaye noted.

Begaye also noted that the White House Office of Management and Budget issued a rare statement of administration policy against the bill. But he said the Navajo Oil and Gas Company, the tribe's energy development firm, supports the measure.

The bill awaits action in the Senate. A separate bill in that chamber -- S.209, the Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act Amendments , includes similar provisions affecting the Navajo Nation.

Committee Notices:
Full Committee Markup on H.R. 538, H.R. 1541, H.R. 1644, H.R. 1880, H.R. 2130, H.R. 2168, H.R. 2288 (September 9, 2015)
Full Committee Markup on H.R. 538, H.R. 1541, H.R. 1644, H.R. 1880, H.R. 2130, H.R. 2168, H.R. 2288 (September 10, 2015)
Oversight Hearing on “The GAO Report on ‘INDIAN ENERGY DEVELOPMENT: Poor Management by BIA Has Hindered Development on Indian Lands.’” (October 21, 2015)

Government Accountability Office Report:
Indian Energy Development: Poor Management by BIA Has Hindered Energy Development on Indian Lands (June 2015)

Federal Register Notice:
Oil and Gas; Hydraulic Fracturing on Federal and Indian Lands (March 26, 2015)

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