The urgency of energy independence has long been recognized as an important goal by the United State's military branches. Southern Ute Tribal member, Kevin Frost, who now heads up the Dept. of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs, shares that same sense of urgency. Frost, formally trained as an attorney, is now a dedicated public servant who initially served his people as an elected council member but has now sacrificed the grandeur of Colorado for the halls of DOE.
Tribal Energy: Powering Self-Determination
Last week, Front and his talented DOE staff, including Lizana Pierce, Tweedy Doe and Givey Kochanowski, showcased their knowledge and skills at DOE's National Tribal Energy Summit (NTES) held Sept. 24th, 25th and 26th, 2019 in Washington, D.C. Tribes from across the lower 48 and Alaska traveled to attend the robust training event. The theme of the summit, Tribal Energy: Powering Self-Determination, was woven though out the presentations that focused on helping Tribes develop all types of renewable energy along with more traditional forms of energy to achieve energy independence. Sessions focused on building capacity and helping the tribes achieve the energy goals of their choosing.
Native Language and Traditions Included
Frost felt it was important to include Native language during the opening and closing ceremonies. Kevin’s father, Southern Ute Tribal member, Ray Frost, offered a traditional Native prayer to properly open the event. Northern Ute Tribal Chairman Luke Duncan who expressed his appreciation for the event offered the closing prayer for safe travel home for all the attendees. Native American Women Warriors posted the Colors at the beginning of the Summit and were there to retrieve them when it closed. Midway through the event, the Native American Women Warriors led a round-dance that snaked its way through the ballrooms of the Westin Hotel.
Partnership with NCSL
The NTES was co-hosted by the National Conference of State Legislature (NCSL), a national organization headquartered in Denver, CO. NCSL has a long held an interest in tribal issues that has seemed to parallel the increase in the number of Native people elected to state offices. Within their organization, NCSL has a State-Tribal Institute. During the NTES, one session highlighted the importance of developing positive working relationships between tribes and states that share some of the same energy goals. Typically, clashes between the two sovereigns take place over jurisdiction and taxation. Prior to the NTES, NCSL hosted a two-day conference of Native elected state legislators from all across the United States. NCSL's National Caucus of Native American State Legislators (NCNASL) currently has 81 members.
Federal Family Participation
Presenting many of the sessions were staff from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) and the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA). All shared their willing to assist tribes and offered up financial resources of grants and loans that their agencies managed.
Fossil Fuels Are Important
The importance of fossils fuels was also apparent at the NTES with the Mandan Hidatsa Arikara (MHA) Chairman Mark Fox taking center stage during some of the presentations. The MHA were also one of the supporters of the conference. The BIA also made presentations about the revamping of mineral reporting systems they had done to their agency to make it more efficienct and to ensure that landowners were paid for their leases and oil extracted off their lands.
Announcement of New Funding Opportunity
Closing out the event of iwas DOE’s Deputy Under Secretary Mark W. Menezes who announced the release of a brand new Notice of Intent (NOI) to issue a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) entitled “Energy Infrastructure Development on Indian Lands - 2020”. The FOA will be available sometime in October or November 2019.
According to the DOE website, “the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Indian Energy intends to solicit applications from Indian tribes, which, for the purposes of the FOA, include Alaska Native Regional Corporations and Village Corporations, Intertribal Organizations, and Tribal Energy Development Organizations, to:
Install energy generating system(s) and/or energy efficiency measure(s) for tribal building(s); or,
Deploy community-scale energy generating system(s) or energy storage on Tribal Lands; or,
Install integrated energy system(s) for autonomous operation (independent of the traditional centralized electric power grid) to power a single or multiple essential tribal facilities during emergency situations or for tribal community resilience; or,
Deploy energy infrastructure or integrated energy system(s) to electrify tribal buildings.”
The announcement states that, “DOE envisions awarding multiple financial assistance awards in the form of grants. The estimated period of performance for each award will be approximately from one (1) to two (2) years, but no longer than three (3) years including a 12 month mandatory verification period. This Notice is issued so that interested parties are aware of DOE’s intention to issue this FOA in the near term. All of the information contained in this Notice is subject to change. DOE will not respond to questions concerning this Notice. However, once the FOA has been released, DOE will provide an avenue for potential Applicants to submit questions.
DOE’s Office of Indian Energy plans to issue the FOA on or about October or November 2019 via the EERE Exchange website (https://eere-exchange.energy.gov/). If Applicants wish to be notified when the FOA is issued, they should subscribe to the DOE Office of Indian Energy email list on the website homepage (www.energy.gov/indianenergy). When the FOA is released, applications will be accepted only through EERE Exchange.”
Indian Country is Uniquely Positioned to Develop Renewable Energy
According to the DOE Tribal Energy website, “The mission of the Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs is to maximize the development and deployment of energy solutions for the benefit of American Indians and Alaska Natives.” There are 573 Tribes in the lower 48 states and Alaska whose lands hold great potential to power not only their interests but have the potential to contribute to the United State's energy usage. A brochures found on website provides an overview of the office's goals: The Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act of 2005, under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, authorizes the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Indian Energy to fund and carry out a variety of programs and projects that assist American Indian tribes and Alaska Native villages with:
Promoting tribal energy development, efficiency, and use
Reducing and stabilizing energy costs
Enhancing tribal energy natural resources
Strengthening economic infrastructure
Electrifying Indian lands and homes.
Upcoming DOE Tribal Program Review
DOE also provides an annual week-long Tribal Program Review that allows all the DOE funded Tribal projects the opportunity to present on their project's progress and share their lessons learned. This year's event is slated to take place next month, November 18, 2019 through November 22, 2019 at the Sheraton Denver West Hotel. Attending the review is free of charge, but DOE states that attendees must register to attend. A block of hotel rooms is reserved for attendees.
Building Capacity through Training and Technical Assistance
In an ongoing effort to build the capacity of Indian County, DOE in partnership with its federal partners is constantly holding webinar trainings. Most are available for viewing on the DOE website for later viewing. There is also a resource center of research that is designed to inform people about the various types of energy as well as energy efficiency measures. Each Tribe may request Technical Assistance and receive up to 40 hours of free TA.
If your Tribe is in need of legal assistance to develop their energy project, please contact the experienced attorneys at Whitcomb, Selinsky Law PC. Call (303) 534-1958 or complete an online contact form.