In fiscal years 2006 and 2007, the U.S. Congress failed to provide signifi cant funding to breathe life into the Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self Determination Act of 2005. That changed in December 2007, when Congress passed and President Bush signed H.R. 2764, an Omnibus Appropriations Bill to fund the operations of the federal government, including the Departments of Energy and the Interior, for the period October 1, 2007, to September 30, 2008.
For “Tribal Energy Activities” in the U.S. Department of Energy, Congress appropriated $6 million - an increase of more than $3 million over President Bush’s budget request. The Council of Energy Resource Tribes will be allocated $500,000 for the Tribal energy activities it undertakes on behalf of Indian Tribes across the nation. In addition, H.R. 2764 provides $2 million for Indian tribal energy activities at the U.S. Department of the Interior. Of that amount, $600,000 will be channeled to the Offi ce of Indian Energy and Economic Development to review and process “Tribal Energy Resource Agreements” (TERAs) submitted by Indian Tribes pursuant to the new Indian energy law. For capacity building related to energy development and environmental protection, the bill includes $1.4 million to be allocated directly to Indian Tribes.
By February 1, 2008, the U.S. Department of the Interior intends to send to Congress for review fi nal regulations to implement the TERA provisions of the new Indian energy law signed by President Bush in August 2005. The final proposed regulations can be found in the Federal Register, Vol. 11, pp. 48625-48645 (August 21, 2006).
TERAs will pave the way for Indian Tribes to assume greater decision-making and management of their energy development decisions. Current law requires the Secretary of the Interior to review and approve each lease, lease renewal and related agreements, whereas the new law authorizes Indian Tribes to negotiate and enter these agreements largely free from secretarial review or approval. The new land leasing system is voluntary, and Tribes that prefer to operate under existing legal authority may continue do so.