WASHINGTON—President Russell Begaye applauded the U.S. House of Representatives’ approval Monday of a landmark bill that removes barriers for tribes to develop their own natural resources.
The Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act Amendments of 2017, introduced in January 2017 by Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., passed through the Senate by unanimous consent last November. The House approved it Monday.
Congress entertained similar bills over the last eight years without successfully approving one. Since Hoeven introduced his version in early 2017, President Begaye and his administration worked to help move it forward by writing letters in support of the bill and testifying on Capitol Hill.
“For many years, we have watched as Congress has failed to pass this bill,” President Begaye said. “Navajo and other tribal nations have endured a long struggle to assume control over our own natural resources. Passage of this bill is monumental for Native people. It’s a game-changer for tribes.”
If signed by President Donald Trump, the bill would amend the Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act to address grants and technical assistance, loan guarantees and Tribal Energy Resource Agreements (TERAs).
The bill authorizes the Navajo Nation to manage mineral leases for up to 75 years without waiting for the Interior Secretary to review them. It also directs the Government Accountability Office to submit a report to Congress on the process of carrying out the bill.
“I applaud Congress for advancing this bill,” President Begaye said. “History shows that the Interior Department has not always helped us in managing and leasing minerals in a way that provides the maximum opportunity or benefit to the Navajo people. I urge President Trump to sign this bill into law because we are looking to take full control over all our resources.”