Native American Energy Act

Floor Speech


Mr. YOUNG of Alaska. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

H.R. 538 has been in the works for several years. This is not a bill that came out of nowhere. Its provisions are the result of oversight hearings and consultation with Indian tribes and Alaska Native Corporations. The bill streamlines Federal permitting for, and increases tribal control over, energy and other natural resource development on Indian lands. It gives tribes options to perform or waive appraisals of their lands and prohibits the Interior Department's hydraulic fracturing from applying to Indian lands without the consent of the tribe.

It also contains provisions to streamline judicial review and deter frivolous lawsuits concerning Federal permitting for Native American energy projects. The judicial review provisions are crucial for Alaska Natives, whose ability to develop their land claims settlement lands has been abused by special interest groups filing lawsuits.

The bill also authorizes a pilot project for the Navajo Nation to handle mineral leasing of its trust lands if Interior approves its tribal leasing program.

Finally, Mr. Chairman, H.R. 538 promotes tribal forest stewardship contracting on Federal lands adjacent to Indian reservation land to provide a full supply of biomass energy for the tribes.

This summer, the GAO issued a report called ``Indian Energy Development--Poor Management by BIA Has Hindered Energy Department on Indian Lands.'' Here a couple of the highlights:

``The BIA does not have comprehensive data to identify ownership and resources available for development, does not have a documented process or data to track and monitor its review and response times, and some offices do not have the skills or adequate staff resources to effectively review energy-related documents.''

``In 2012, Interior's inspector general found that weaknesses in BIA's management of oil and gas resources contributed to a general preference by industry to acquire oil and gas leases on non-Indian lands over Indian lands.''

This is a jobs bill. It provides energy for America, and more than that, it takes care of the tribal community that has been blessed with resources. In some Indian reservations, where unemployment rates are 50 percent, energy jobs are the only high-wage, private sector jobs available for members. These energy jobs dollars go a long way in supporting families.

The Native American Energy Act is strongly supported by a broad array of Native organizations as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, specifically, the National Congress of American Indians, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, the Intertribal Timber Council, Navajo Nation, Southern Ute Indian Tribe, Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation, and the Ute Tribe of Utah.

I am a little bit surprised that the White House has issued a statement against this bill. Really, it is not anything new. I always listen to this administration's ``all of the above but none of the below'' as far as energy goes. In other words, the administration promotes only wind and solar, while opposing oil, gas, and coal on Nations' lands--Nations' lands.

In the Dakotas, it takes 15 permits on tribal lands and 2 off of tribal lands. That is a disgrace, and I suggest, with 56 million acres of land, there ought to be the ability to be self-determined, be the first Americans, with the ability to take and produce energy, and help their tribal members out.

Those that oppose this, it is the same old story: don't get too smart; we will give you a side of beef and a blanket. Don't let us help ourselves, let the government tell you what to do.

This is a good piece of legislation. This did not come from me. This came from the Native tribes themselves. It is an example, as we have trust authority, we should let them control their own destiny.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. YOUNG of Alaska. Mr. Chairman, I would like to mention one thing. I do have an amendment for a future day--I am speaking to the gentleman--on NEPA. We don't change the NEPA policy at all, other than the fact that only those affected can have comments on how it affects their land, not a bunch of people from New York or Maine or Dallas or Florida. So that is really a red herring that was drug across this bill. This is to help the tribes.


Mr. YOUNG of Alaska. Madam Chair, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

In closing, I suggest one thing. This bill came from the tribes, not from the Sierra Club and not from the friends of this and not from the friends of that. All 28 organizations had nothing to do with the tribes.

I have said all along--and I am pretty well related to the Athabascan Tribe in Alaska--it is time they are given the opportunity to fulfill the self-determination act that we passed. Words do not do that.

This administration has these great conferences, and we invite everybody down and winky, winky, and now have a good time. Nothing happens administratively.

Now, I know there is some legislation and I am working very hard to get legislation, but I can't do it all. I have to do it one little step at a time.

This bill is requested by American Indians to have more control over their land.

I have to remind this Congress that I sit in that we are now ranked in the nations around the world 20th in the freedom category. We have gone from number 1 to 20th. Think about that. The American Indians, our first people, are 13th in freedom because of our so-called free government. Now, there is something wrong with that.

We are doing an indirect thing, as trustees, by not allowing them to expand their God-given right, their ability, their intellectual capability, to expand their self-worth and keep their identity.

Every time we try to bring a bill to the floor to do that, it is, first of all, ``We can do it better administratively.'' That is why they are ranked 13th in freedom because of our government.

Now, I want everybody to think about this in Congress, from number 1 freest nation in the world to right now 20. That is not a good thing.

In the last 5 years, we have dropped three spaces in that freedom chart, mainly because of overreach, regulation, and dictation by our government. That is what it is based on. Individual freedoms are lost.

Try that as a tribe and have to go through all the other steps that the other person doesn't have to. Well, they dropped down to 13th.

I am asking the people in this body to support this bill if you believe in self-determination, if you believe in self-sufficiency, if you believe in the right to get ahead, especially in nations by this Congress that gave them the ability to be self-determined. They really take it away.

So this is a good piece of legislation, a piece of legislation that should be voted ``yes'' on. We should give a chance for the American Indian to go forth as I know they have the capability of.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. YOUNG of Alaska. Madam Chairman, this amendment clarifies who may submit public comments on a NEPA study concerning a Federal permit or land approval for Indian lands. It also preserves current NEPA requirements concerning tribal gaming proposals.

When a NEPA study is done on Federal action, like a mineral lease approval on Indian lands, the agency must consider comments received by any member of the public, regardless of whether they are affected. This is unfair to the tribe because tribal lands are not public land. They are private lands.

Section 4 of the bill limits public comment in these situations to the tribe and individuals who live within the affected area of the project.

Section 4 was drafted. We expected an individual living within the affected area would include State, tribal, and county officials, but no one from New York or San Francisco. It is none of their business.

To address any ambiguity, the amendment would clarify that tribe, States, and county governments within the area affected may have their comments considered along with those of individuals.

Finally, the amendment provides that section 4 will not affect Federal actions related to tribal gaming. Gaming is a unique area of law. Gaming facilities have a significant impact outside the local area.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. YOUNG of Alaska. Madam Chair, I yield myself as much time as I may consume.

Madam Chair, I do not oppose the amendment. I just want to congratulate the lady on backing up what is in the bill, making this correct.

We have had testimony from a lot of the timber tribes on how well they have managed their timber, and right next door will be the Forest Service land that is managed terribly. That is a threat to the tribal timber, too.

I really think, if we want to get back on this track of the freedoms I was talking about, if we allow the tribes to contract with the Forest Service, make it a contract for thinning, encouraging growth, managing growth for future timber needs--you know, the native tribes are doing so much better than the Federal tribes. So I compliment the lady on this deal.

I compliment the gentlewoman on this view, and I accept the amendment. I think the gentlewoman is doing a great job, and I appreciate it.

I yield back the balance of my time.


Mr. YOUNG of Alaska. Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to the motion to recommit.


Mr. YOUNG of Alaska. Mr. Speaker, there is nothing in this act that changes the President's authority. I go back to self-determination. These are tribal lands owned by the tribes, controlled by the tribal council, and they will make a decision about the sacred sites; not somebody, again, in Miami or New York that wants to stop the project.

These are tribal sites, and that is the thing I don't quite understand. This affects nothing of the present law. If they decide this is a sacred site, that will be their decision, instead of someone else.

I urge people to reject his motion to recommit, and let's pass this legislation, this one little, tiny step forward for our first Americans. This bill came from them and they support it. They are not worried about these sacred sites because they will control them, not somebody who is an official. We take no authority away from the President.

Very frankly, Mr. Speaker, this is a motion to recommit to slow the bill down. They say it doesn't, but this is an attempt to do so. I urge a ``no'' on the motion to recommit and a ``yes'' on the passage for that little, tiny step for the American Indians, our first people.

I yield back the balance of my time.