Dean Suagee: Tribes and the green energy revolution
"Is this the year the United States will finally enact a law to start dealing with the climate crisis? The House of Representatives passed its version of such a bill June 26, the American Clean Energy and Security Act. The Senate is expected to take up the bill in September.

The Obama administration will push to have the legislation enacted into law before December, when the countries of the world will meet in Copenhagen to finalize the next phase of an international treaty to deal with the climate crisis. How does all this matter for Indian tribes?

Many tribal communities are already suffering from the impacts of global warming, particularly those in Alaska, and we know that what has happened to date is only the beginning. If present trends in the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases continue for another decade or so, climate scientist James Hansen says we are likely to pass a “tipping point” – the Earth we leave to our grandchildren will be very different from the one we have lived in, very different from the Earth in which tribal cultures were developed by our ancestors.

The bill, commonly known as Waxman-Markey after its primary sponsors, Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and Edward Markey, D-Mass., chair of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee, is massive and complex. One key feature is the creation of a “cap-and-trade” system, which is a way of putting a price on the right to emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

A few days before the House passed Waxman-Markey, Section 133 was added, “Support for Indian Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Programs.” This tribal program would be funded by half of one percent of the allowances allocated for the state SEED accounts. This would be a step in the right direction, no doubt. Under Section 133, the Secretary of Energy would create a competitive program to distribute these allowances among the tribes.

In my view, it would be better for EPA to auction these allowances and distribute the proceeds among tribal governments on a formula basis, so tribes could count on long-term funding for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. One idea is to distribute the funds through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program administered by the Department of Energy."

Get the Story:
Dean Suagee: Tribal sovereignty and the green energy revolution: The Waxman-Markey Bill (Indian Country Today 7/27)

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