Keystone Thoughts from the 2019 National Tribal Energy Summit

Under Secretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes speaks in the closing session of the 2019 National Tribal Energy Summit in Washington, DC.

Keystone Policy Center attended the 2019 National Tribe Energy Summit (NTES), which was hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Indian Energy and the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) September 24-26 in Washington, DC. The summit aimed to allow tribal leaders to hear from high-level Administration officials, build and expand networks with government and industry representatives, and exchange ideas on national energy interests.

“What really stood out to me was the focus on building tribal capacity while strengthening self-determination and tribal sovereignty,” said Ernest House, Jr., director of Keystone’s American Indian/Alaska Native program, who attended the summit.

House attended NTES just a few weeks after convening a summit of his own in Tulalip, Washington, which discussed the different ways leaders can address legal jurisdictions and governing decisions related to energy development on or adjacent to tribal land. The United States is shifting to tap new sources of energy and replace aging infrastructure, which is creating new tensions among industry and land managers, including Native American Tribes. Finding areas of common higher ground in these tensions is a focus of Keystone’s work, and was also a focus of discussion at NTES.

“We want to have these regional conversations. Keystone is trying to establish these opportunities to learn from tribes and bring the conversation to them. I think that one thing everyone is trying to nail down is how to get all of the tribes’ voices to the table and making sure we are having more nation-to-nation conversations and partnerships,” said House.

The necessity of working directly with tribes was reiterated by Under Secretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes in the closing session of NTES.

“The fact of the matter is we in Washington do not have the wisdom you all have on the ground. There are 573 federally recognized tribes which means any federal government approach to impose a one-size-fits-all on you is not the way to proceed,” said Menezes, according to Mark Wolf, editor of the NCSL Blog.

Menezes made his remarks while also announcing a $15 million grant program for tribal energy development projects.

“We Intend to solicit applications from Indian tribes to deploy integrated energy generating systems, energy infrastructure, energy storage and energy efficiency measures throughout their tribal communities,” Menezes said. “We plan to make up to $15 million available, subject to congressional appropriation.”