House votes to speed up tribal energy projects

House votes to speed up tribal energy projects
© Greg Nash

The House approved a bill Thursday to speed up energy development on Native American land and for Alaska natives.

The bill, from Rep. Don YoungDonald (Don) Edwin YoungWHIP LIST: How House Democrats say they'll vote on infrastructure bill Republicans are the 21st-century Know-Nothing Party OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden suspends Arctic oil leases issued under Trump |  Experts warn US needs to better prepare for hurricane season | Progressives set sights on Civilian Climate Corps MORE (R-Alaska), passed on a 254-173 vote, with about a dozen Democrats voting in favor. The legislation promotes energy production on Indian lands by streamlining the federal permitting process for tribal energy projects.  

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Under current law, the Interior Department is required to sign off on any lease a tribe might sign with an energy company. 

Young’s bill looks to cut back on the permitting procedure for those leases. That process, supporters of the bill say, increases the potential for litigation, slows down the energy development process and serves as a financial burden for tribes looking to lease their lands.

“We are doing an indirect thing to allow them to ... expand their self-worth and keep their identity," Young said during floor debate. 

Many Democrats have lined up agains the bill, including the White House. 

On Wednesday, the Office of Management and Budget said it doesn’t support the bill because it “undermines” the federal energy permitting process and takes the government out of the review process for energy leases. The statement said the administration is working to improve the leasing process for Native American energy projects on its own.

“The administration has been taking meaningful action to update the leasing process for lands held in trust for Indian tribes, and is actively working to expedite appraisals, leasing, and permitting on Indian lands, and to provide resources to ensure safe and responsible development,” the statement. 

The reasoning wasn’t enough for Republican supporters of Young’s bill.

“The White House’s opposition will not erase the black mark against Interior for its neglect of Indian Country,” Rep. Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopGOP's Westerman looks to take on Democrats on climate change House Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Westerman tapped as top Republican on House Natural Resources Committee | McMorris Rodgers wins race for top GOP spot on Energy and Commerce | EPA joins conservative social network Parler MORE (R-Utah), the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement. 

“Native Americans are being denied opportunities due to the federal government’s incompetence.”