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By Rebecca Kern
Sept. 24 — Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said that he will continue to work with Congress to fund a new $11 million Tribal Energy Loan Guarantee Program to drive clean energy development on Indian lands and increase funding for the Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs.
The Energy Department included the new program in its fiscal year 2016 budget request. However, the program hasn't been funded in the latest appropriations committee markups, Moniz said Sept. 24 at the 2015 National Tribal Energy Summit in Washington.
Moniz said that he is “frankly disappointed” that the program wasn't funded in the latest markups. But, he said, “The president and I, and some key members of Congress, remain committed to try to work for this program. We haven’t given up.”
The new program would underwrite and credit subsidies for loan guarantees to go toward tribally owned energy generation projects. Moniz said the loan program is a “real priority” that could leverage nearly $100 million in clean energy generation projects on Indian lands.
In addition to the loan program, the department has requested an increase from $16 million to $20 million in funding for its Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs in its FY 2016 budget proposal.
Gary Davis, president of the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development, a nonprofit focused on American Indian economic self-sufficiency, said he appreciated the administration's support for increased tribal funding.
“While I wouldn’t begin to speculate on the congressional appropriations process, it’s certainly a welcome development that the administration has put out a strong initial budget request. We hope Congress works with the administration to ensure these programs are funded at robust levels,” Davis told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 24 in an e-mail.
Moniz also noted during his keynote address at the summit the importance of Indian-owned lands for energy resources, saying that while they only make up 2 percent of national land, they make up 5 percent of untapped energy resources.
“As we move forward, I’m committed to making DOE’s Office of Indian Energy an even more vigorous engine for meeting tribal needs. That’s why we have expanded our reach into Indian country, using more native contractors and service providers,” Moniz said.
Moniz also referred to the $6 million in funding to support renewable energy, technology deployment and energy efficiency retrofits on tribal lands, which President Barack Obama announced during his trip to Alaska in early September.
The deadline for applications for the funding ends Dec. 10.
Davis said the clean energy funding is welcome news.
“We hope the initial investment in clean energy and energy efficiency projects on tribal lands will lead to greater deployment of these energy sources across Indian Country, and ultimately spur greater economic activity. We view investment in energy as an investment in our economy—and ultimately our sovereignty,” Davis said.
Moniz also announced the addition of three additional tribal leaders to the Indian Country Energy and Infrastructure Working Group, an organization of tribal leaders who work with the Energy Department's Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs to survey and provide feedback about department policies.
The three leaders come from the Osage Nation from Oklahoma, the Cherokee Nation from Oklahoma and the Association of Village Council Presidents from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta in Alaska.
Moniz said these additional tribal leaders represent “a diverse portfolio of resources, including fossil energy resources.”
Davis said this announcement “reflects the fact that oil and gas development is booming across the U.S., and Indian Country should also benefit from increased production in these areas.”
“We hope the partnership and involvement with those who work in oil and gas will pay dividends for tribes by expanding economic development opportunities,” he said.
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