Environment | Opinion

Stephanie Gutierrez: Reform HEARTH Act to boost sovereignty

Seminole Tribe Chairman Jim Billie and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell signed a Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership Act agreement in January 2015. Photo from Department of the Interior / Facebook

Stephanie Gutierrez, a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, calls for tribes to take greater control of energy development through reforms to the Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership Act:
The area that offers tribes tremendous growth through the HEARTH Act is around alternative and renewable energy. If done correctly, it has the capacity to provide stable economic growth that will create jobs while promoting tribal sovereignty. Worth noting, tribal lands are estimated to have 10% of the nation’s traditional and renewable energy resources. At the same time, the federal government’s search for domestic energy sources continues to intensify.

Renewable energy development in Indian Country has not been occurring largely in part due to the burdensome regulatory scheme. Even though tribes can see a decrease in the bureaucratic steps it takes to process a lease, they must adhere to the environmental regulations required under the HEARTH Act, which are costly and time consuming. Tribes are encouraged to seek legal advice in creating their leasing and environmental regulations. Currently, no money has been appropriated from Congress to tribes through the HEARTH Act of 2012. Some legal advisors for tribes have stated that the costs associated with establishing the environmental protections, in accordance with federal regulations, are too great. Tribes simply do not have the capacity necessary to fulfill the federal requirements to obtain Secretarial approval for their environmental regulations. These regulations may require the expertise, as well as expense, of geologists, engineers, and hydrologists.

In addition, tribal sovereignty is under attack if tribes cannot afford the legal support and instead opt to incorporate federal environmental law.

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Stephanie Gutierrez: The HEARTH Act of 2012 Puts Tribal Sovereignty at Stake (Indian Country Today 1/3)

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