Tribal Energy Development Legislation Passes Congress


Tribal Energy Development Legislation Passes Congress

December 10, 2018

On December 10, the House of Representatives passed S. 245, the Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act Amendments of 2017, which is designed to remove barriers to energy development. Energy has the potential to be a large economic driver for Indian Country and this bill, sponsored by Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), gives tribes greater autonomy over the management and development of their resources. S. 245, which passed the Senate in late 2017, now heads to the President for his signature.

“This legislation empowers tribes to manage their own energy resources, cuts red tape, drives economic growth and promotes energy development for Indian Country,” said Senator Hoeven, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

Energy Resource Management

S. 245 is designed to streamline the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ approval process for what are known as Tribal Energy Resource Agreements (TERAs). Under current law, a tribe may enter into a TERA with the federal government through which the tribe completes and manages business agreements with third parties regarding things like rights-of-way for energy projects, as well as oil and gas leases. Through such agreements, a tribe takes over managing activities that would otherwise be carried out by the Department of the Interior (DOI). S. 245 allows for a TERA application to be automatically be approved 270 days after submission to DOI and requires DOI to pay the tribe operating under a TERA agreement for carrying out the management activities.

Biomass Projects and Grant Eligibility for Intertribal Organizations

S.245 establishes a biomass pilot program for tribes to use non-marketable timber from neighboring federal lands for energy development. The bill also expands the Indian Energy Education Planning and Management Assistance Program to make intertribal organizations eligible for grants.

S.245 will also:

  • Require the Department of Energy to collaborate with national laboratories to provide technical assistance to tribal governments.
  • Improve efficiency by authorizing tribes and certified third parties to conduct energy appraisals, in addition to the Secretary of the Interior.
  • Encourage the formation of joint tribal-industry ventures for purposes of developing tribal resources without secretarial approval, provided the tribe remains the majority owner and in control of the venture.
  • Direct the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to treat tribes like states and municipalities when it comes to preferences for permits and original licenses for hydroelectric projects, where no preliminary permit has been issued.

Please contact Ryan Ward at or (202) 594-6593 if you have questions.


S.245 - Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act Amendments of 2017