Indianz.Com > News > Inflation Reduction Act brings new climate and energy investments to Indian Country
Senate Democrats: Inflation Reduction Act (Note: Event starts at about 25:55 into the feed)
Inflation Reduction Act brings new climate and energy investments to Indian Country
Monday, August 8, 2022

Democrats are claiming an election season achievement with the passage of a massive bill that includes hundreds of millions of dollars in climate and energy investments in Indian Country.

Known as the Inflation Reduction Act, the comprehensive package authorizes $272.5 million in new funding at the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The money, once appropriated by Congress, would go toward climate resiliency efforts, fish hatcheries and drought mitigation programs in Native communities, including those in Alaska and Hawaii.

The 755-page bill also authorizes $150 million for a new program that will bring more electricity to homes in Indian Country, as well as modernize existing systems by making them more climate friendly. The money is to be spent over a 10-year period, with $145.5 million going directly to tribes and the remaining $4.5 million being used to carry out the work at the BIA.

Additionally, H.R.5376 expands tribal programs at the Department of Energy. The measure authorizes $75 million in loans to tribes for energy development and increases the loan guarantee program for tribes from $2 billion to $20 billion.

“Native communities have the technical expertise, capacity, and place-based knowledge needed to develop effective climate change and energy solutions,” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), the chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, said after passage of the bill in the U.S. Senate on Sunday afternoon.

“With critical investments in the Inflation Reduction Act, we’re making sure the federal government steps up to support Native-driven climate resilience, advance tribal energy development, and fulfill its trust responsibility to Native communities,” Schatz added.

The Inflation Reduction Act must still be approved by the U.S. House of Representatives before it can be signed into law. But tribal leaders across the nation are already applauding the new investments into some of of their highest priorities.

“Once perceived as future threats, the impacts of climate change are now upon us,” said William Smith, the chair of the National Indian Health Board, the largest inter-tribal health organization. “The action taken today demonstrates a renewed respect for Mother Earth and our waters and will focus attention and critically needed resources on alleviating the impact of climate change and transitioning to clean energy.”

“Additionally, this bill includes several general health provisions and inflationary and deficit control factors to bring welcomed financial relief to all Americans,” said Smith, who also serves vice president as of the Valdez Native Tribe, based in Alaska.

In the lower 48 states, leaders of the Navajo Nation are hailing movement on the Inflation Reduction Act as well. They hope to use the financial investments to develop clean energy solutions on the largest reservation in the United States.

“The Inflation Reduction Act is another major investment by Congress and the Biden Administration to uplift the 570+ tribal nations across the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Seth Damon, the Speaker of the Navajo Nation Council, the tribe’s legislative arm.

“This historic legislation aims to reduce the national deficit, combat growing climate change concerns affecting our Native communities, ensure tribes invest in green energy projects, and for the Navajo Nation to be a leader in clean energy development,” said Damon.

“With the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, the Navajo Nation can invest more into sustainable energy projects for future generations,” added Jamie Henio, an elected delegate on the council. “Climate change is real as these unprecedented drought conditions impact our crops, vegetation, wildlife, and roadways.”

Secretary Deb Haaland, who is the first Native person to lead the Department of the Interior, also praised the new climate and energy investments. Her agency includes the BIA, where much of the tribal-specific funding in H.R.5376 is directed.

“As communities across the country continue to face extreme heat, intense storms and other climate impacts, now is the time to make bold investments,” Haaland said on Sunday. “Today’s Senate vote advancing the Inflation Reduction Act is a significant step toward achieving President Biden’s ambitious goals to tackle the climate crisis while lowering costs for working families and creating good-paying jobs.”

“The Department of the Interior will play a critical role in our nation’s path forward to reduce emissions, secure environmental justice, and develop a robust and sustainable clean energy economy,” said Haaland, who is a citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna.

The Inflation Reduction Act has been the subject of significant back-and-forth on Capitol Hill in the last couple of weeks. The drama ended when the leader of the Senate committee with jurisdiction over energy issues, including those at Interior, agreed to support the package, which contains initiatives that President Joe Biden has been trying to get enacted since he took office in January 2021.

“I ran for president promising to make government work for working families again, and that is what this bill does — period,” Biden said on Sunday.

The measure isn’t as broad as the Build Back Better agenda that Biden and his administration have been touting for the past 18 months. The original title of H.R.5376 reflected the intent of Democrats to implement what they had been describing as a bold vision to boost America’s middle class.

“It required many compromises,” Biden said of the package that was finally negotiated. “Doing important things almost always does.”

“The House should pass this as soon as possible and I look forward to signing it into law,” Bided stated.

No Republicans voted in support of the Inflation Reduction Act. Vice President Kamala Harris, whose duties also include serving as president of the Senate, cast the tie-breaking vote on the bill in the chamber, which is evenly divided 50-50 between Democrats and the GOP.

“I think what it means is that right now, regardless of an election, that the American people are being seen and they’re being heard,” Harris said after casting the key vote to pass H.R.5376.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York), the Majority Leader in the Senate, was more direct about his party’s plan to capitalize on the Inflation Reduction Act. Democratic lawmakers are bracing for losses in the upcoming mid-term elections, which could cause them to lose control of both chambers in Congress.

“It’s in a momentous achievement and it’s going to set our country in a path to better days ahead,” Schumer said at a news conference on Sunday.

“I think the public will understand that and i think it’s going to help us in November significantly,” Schumer said.

Historically, the party in control of the White House — Democrats in this case — loses seats in the legislative branch during the subsequent election cycle.

U.S. Capitol
The U.S. Capitol is seen on August 5, 2022. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Title VIII of the Inflation Reduction Act includes most of the Indian Country specific provisions. It consists of the following four sections:


The provisions increasing the tribal loan amount and the tribal loan guarantee amount can be found in SEC. 50145, TRIBAL ENERGY LOAN GUARANTEE PROGRAM, on page 630 of the Inflation Reduction Act.

The House is currently on recess, with lawmakers expected to return to their regular work after the Labor Day holiday at the beginning of September. However, Democratic leaders have scheduled a vote this Friday, August 12, to pass H.R.5376 and send the bill to President Biden for his signature.

Title VIII – Senate Committee on Indian Affairs – Inflation Reduction Act