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Senate Indian Affairs Committee Passes Tribal Energy Bill

The U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs passed a bill Wednesday designed to simplify federal energy regulations on Indian lands.

The bill -- S-209, also known as the Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act Amendments of 2015 -- calls for amending language enacted by a similarly-named law, the Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act of 2005, and the Energy Policy Act of 1992 (see Daily GPI, May 27, 2005).

In particular, S-209 would change Tribal Energy Resource Agreements (TERA) by adding language pertaining to oil and natural gas leases; rights-of-way; the pooling, unitization or communitization of mineral resources located on tribal lands; and the certification of tribal energy development organizations.

"I'm pleased the committee wasted no time in passing bipartisan legislation that will help improve the lives of people throughout Indian Country," Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), the committee chairman and the bill's sponsor, said Wednesday. "We are now one step closer to empowering tribes and breaking down barriers to tribal energy development. Our legislation will help increase economic development, create jobs and give tribes the flexibility they need to tailor federal programs to best meet the needs of their local communities."

S-209 also includes seven miscellaneous amendments, six of which insert additional language over the issuance of preliminary permits or licenses; a weatherization program; appraisals; leases for restricted lands of the Navajo Nation; an extension to the tribal lease period for the Crow Tribe of Montana, and the trust status of lease payments.

The seventh miscellaneous amendment calls for establishing a biomass demonstration project for Indian tribes recognized by the federal government and Alaska Native corporations. Demonstrations to promote biomass energy production -- including biofuel, heat and electricity generation -- would be performed on Indian forest land and in nearby communities for each of the fiscal years from 2015 to 2019.

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