BIA to let tribes develop energy resources on tribal lands

BY STAFF REPORTS
12/26/2019 10:30 AM
WASHINGTON – Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney on Dec. 20 announced final, updated regulations to simplify the process for Tribes to enter into Tribal Energy Resource Agreements with the Department of the Interior, so tribes can better take control of developing energy resources on their lands.

While the opportunity to enter into a TERA has been available since 2008, to date, no tribe has requested a TERA due to burdensome requirements, DOI officials said.    

“The Department of the Interior continues to uphold its trust responsibilities and treaty obligations to tribes,” U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said. “This action clears some of the most persistent hurdles that have hindered tribes from exercising their sovereign right to develop energy on their lands.”

Bernhardt supported the updated TERA regulations by signing Secretary’s Order 3377, which provides for policy guidance on the contractibility of federal functions for oil and gas development on Indian lands. According to the order, the DOI will undertake actions that clarify which federal functions are contractible under an approved TERA for fluid mineral development and a process to which tribes can access the opportunities available to them.   

“I look forward to receiving and approving the very first TERA and seeing Tribes reap the benefits of developing their rich energy resources without having to wait for BIA approval of every single lease, right-of-way, or business agreement,” Sweeney said. “I thank Secretary Bernhardt for further supporting tribal self-determination in energy development and further guidance in Secretary’s Order 3377.”

A TERA is an agreement between a tribe and the DOI that, once approved, allows the tribe to enter into and manage energy-related leases, rights-of-way, and business agreements without obtaining secretarial approval for each individual lease, right-of-way, or agreement. 

TERAs enhance self-determination and economic development opportunities for tribes by promoting tribal oversight and management of energy resource development on tribal lands. TERAs also support the national energy policy of increasing utilization of domestic energy resources. The updates also increase the options available by adding Tribal Energy Development Organizations as an alternative to TERAs. 

The final regulations are the result of input received from tribes during a consultation period and comments from the public. Once the final rule is effective, tribes may seek pre-application consultation and submit formal applications for a TERA.

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