Norton's remarks at Indian Energy Summit
Facebook Twitter Email

The following remarks were those prepared for delivery by Secretary of Interior Gale Norton at the National Indian Energy Summit in Denver, Colorado. December 6, 2001.

Good morning and welcome, honorable tribal leaders, guests, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you Neal.

Neal is the perfect person to help lead this summit -- and to lead the Bureau of Indian Affairs. His engineering background and his life-long experience with energy enterprises -- in an energy intensive state -- gives him a great perspective on the overall economic potential of effective, long-term energy development in Indian Country.

Some 18 years ago, President Reagan said: "Indian tribes and the nation stand to gain from the prudent development and management of the vast coal, oil, gas, uranium and other resources found on Indian lands."

President Reagan said: "[T]hese resources can become the foundation for economic development ... while lessening our nation's dependence on imported oil." His foresight was never more evident than today, in light of the tragic events of Sept. 11.

Just as in other defining times in our history, we˜ve seen during the past three months that, when united, Americans can achieve great things. Together -- throughout America and Indian Country -- we're making our natural resources -- and our entire country -- stronger.

That's why I'm pleased to be here with you -- to kick-off this important summit on the vital role American Indian and Alaska Natives have in creating more energy security for American families. We will explore exciting partnerships between tribes, businesses and government to help develop and market tribal resources.

Our energy summit will focus on promising and proven tribal energy ventures; on building profitable partnerships between tribes and business; and on how federal agencies can assist tribes as they explore ways to develop energy.

Just last week, the Interior Department sponsored a conference with the Energy Department on increasing renewable energy on federal lands. We determined that we must explore ways to better capture the sun's light, the sky's winds, the land's bounty and the Earth's heat.

American Indians and Alaska Natives actively embrace renewable energy. The technologies have the potential to generate power for thousands, if not millions, of American homes.

A number of tribes are investigating or have already developed solar, wind, wave and geothermal power. The tribes are creating jobs, bringing economic development to their communities and to supporting tribal government by selling excess energy. Tribes are leading the way in finding greater energy independence. For example, students at four BIA schools study in classrooms heated by geothermal energy.

Over the next two days, we'll hear from tribes who have been successful in creating renewable energy.

With your insight and history, tribal nations will play an important role in increasing renewable energy production. With input from this event and last week's conference, Energy Secretary Abraham and I will develop recommendations for the vice president's task force to strengthen our national energy policies.

At the Interior Department, we're working to change the tone in which we talk about conserving and protecting our environment. We're fostering a new culture of communication and cooperation --¦ a culture of consultation -- all to serve the cause of conservation. It's what the administration believes is needed to reach a national energy policy that includes both energy development and conservation.

America needs an energy plan that enhances our national security. True national security means America needs an energy plan that reduces dependence on foreign oil, creates new jobs, and expands conservation programs -- all while protecting the environment.

Earlier this year, the U.S. House of Representatives passed such a plan. With the backing of the House's only American Indian member, Democratic Congressman Brad Carson, a bipartisan U.S. House majority passed the President's energy package.

And a solid -- and growing -- group of Senate Democrats support President Bush's bipartisan energy strategy.

Our economy has suffered a blow as a result of September 11. In addition to national security, Americans are worried about job security.

According to calculations from the working men and women of organized labor, the President's energy plan will create more than 700,000 good paying American jobs. That includes jobs for American Indians and Alaska Natives.

The plan improves energy efficiency and conservation, protects the environment, diversifies our supply through renewable sources, and reduces our surging reliance on foreign oil.

So far, the Senate has not allowed a fair vote on the president's bipartisan plan. If a vote is allowed, the president's energy strategy would pass and become law. This would be a victory for a healthier environment; a victory for stable energy prices; a victory for a stronger economy; a victory for strong national security; and, my friends, a victory for Indian Country.

Last year, Indian lands generated 9.3 million barrels of oil, nearly 300 billion cubic feet of gas and 21.4 million short tons of coal.

According to Interior's Minerals Management Service, the energy production on Indian lands is more than 10 percent of the total federal onshore production.

But there is still more to be done. One example, is environmentally safe development of a small portion of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. A portion of ANWR is owned by the Inupiats of Kaktovik Village. They can't access their own lands without Congressional action. The Alaska Federation of Natives support allowing the area to be explored.

Proposed development would occur in a small section of ANWR called the 1002 Area. In 1980, the area was specially designated for further study of its oil and gas potential by President Carter and Congress. It is the nation's largest potential oil field.

Energy could start flowing from the area in about five years.

President Bush's plan would limit energy exploration in the 1002 Area to just 2,000 acres out of ANWR's 19 million.

To put it into perspective, if the state of Alaska were a football field, like Denver's own Invesco Field at Mile High, home of the Broncos, ANWR would be on the six-yard line with the 1002 Area on the one-half yard line, and the actual area of energy production would equal the length of less than one chain link on the 10-yard marker.

A conservative calculation says the 1002 Area, including Native lands, could yield 10.4 billion barrels of oil. ANWR could supply approximately one million barrels of oil a day -- more than 20 percent of our domestic oil production.

American needs the resources from ANWR. The Inupiats of Kaktovik need the income from the energy. The Senate needs to allow a vote so the project can move forward.

>From Alaska's North Slope to the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, we must form partnerships and build on new technologies to ensure a safe environment.

There are good ideas all over America -- and I believe in the value of developing partnerships and listening to people. Tribes constantly improve resource management techniques. Through partnerships formed to create and manage natural resources, tribes make contributions to meet America's energy needs.

This summer, I visited the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in Oklahoma. I saw free-roaming bison lumber among prairie flowers and oil wells.

The Nature Conservancy owns the land. The Osage Tribe owns the mineral rights. If anything happens to one of the wells, the Nature Conservancy calls professors and students at Tulsa University to immediately mitigate the situation.

It's a wonderful win-win situation. The bison herd is thriving. The Osage people receive funds from the oil revenues. The university shares cost-effective environmental protection ideas with energy producers throughout the country. And the students receive training and conduct research that improves technology across the nation.

None of this would be possible without the partnership of the Nature Conservancy. They made extraordinary efforts to conserve and protect this vast landscapes of Tallgrass Prairie and the plants and wildlife there.

Another example of business-tribal cooperation involves Kinder Morgan, the industry partner of the Southern Ute Tribe.

Kinder Morgan's willingness to work with the tribal government has gone a long way in securing a successful partnership with the Southern Ute Tribe. So successful, in fact, that the tribe now honors every member over age 60 with an annual payment of $50,000 .

I can't think of a better use of resources than to take care of those who took care of us: our mothers, fathers and grandparents.

These examples are the result of cooperation and goodwill.

At the Interior Department we're helping to facilitate tribal energy development.

The first step a tribe must take in developing its energy resources is to identify and catalogue its inventory. That's vital to making decisions and designing comprehensive plans for energy development.

Our Division of Energy and Mineral Resources in Lakewood, Colorado, through seismic exploration and graphing technologies, provides technical expertise to help tribes assess their mineral resources.

The division works closely with the Colorado School of Mines to produce data and management tools. With BIA's assistance, the Southern Ute Tribe, for example, has successfully planned long-term growth for natural gas development.

Tribes and industry partners who engage in energy development on trust lands often must deal with three agencies -- BIA, the Office of Surface Mining, and the Bureau of Land Management -- for just one project.

The time and energy these agencies require to manage their part of such a project can be daunting. An industry partner's reluctance to run this gauntlet can hinder a tribe's ability to benefit from the resources.

But, we have streamlined the old process by creating, within BIA, an "Expediting Team" composed of technical experts from various disciplines and within Interior who are involved in resource development projects. This, will help make development more attractive to tribes by bringing a "one-stop s hop" to the BIA.

To help tribes, Assistant Secretary McCaleb has asked the BIA's Office of Tribal Government Services to develop a model tribal organization that is conducive to energy development.

BIA will review the governmental structures of three tribes -- the Warm Springs' Confederated Tribes, the Southern Ute Tribe and the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Tribes -- for their successful energy development efforts. I want to thank them for generously giving us permission to include them in our review.

The tribes' success in energy development is imperative because it helps rebuild economies and alleviate poor socio-economic conditions found on far too many reservations.

According to BIA, unemployment on and near Indian lands is 43 percent -- compared to the national average of 5.4 percent. Another 33 percent, living on or near Indian lands, are earning below poverty level wages.

This is unacceptable.

And it compels us to explore ways to change the conditions that produced them.

It has been shown that when a tribe's economy improves, it's able to sustain its children, families and communities. Their lives are improved. They have hope for the future. And they become contributing members of their tribes and of our nation.

Indeed, the energy production can lift you up. American Indian David Tippiconnic, part Comanche-part Cherokee, recently retired as President of Phillips-Petroleum and Citgo. Leonard Burch, chairman of Southern Ute Tribe and other leaders some of you here today, brought their tribes to prominence with energy production, benefitting the entire community.

Dave Tippiconnic and Chairman Burch are excellent examples of people we need, not only in the next generation of leaders to manage tribal projects, but to be at the forefront of all energy development in the nation.

Energy development creates educational opportunities. Tribal colleges play a major role in developing the workforce to help tribes achieve their energy resource goals.

The tribal colleges' association, the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, is well represented at this summit. I hope the consortium will add to the discussions on what is needed for American Indian and Alaska Native students to pursue their education in business, energy and engineering.

Finally, many of you are interested in the Interior Department's proposed initiative to improve and reform the Indian trust system.

We're actively consulting with tribes and asking: Is the trust system working now? Working together, how can we improve it? What are your ideas and suggestions about the proposed initiative to improve Indian trust programs?

We need your input and suggestions to make trust reform a reality. We have been actively listening to tribes, and gaining their insight.

Today, I'm announcing our schedule for seven consultation sessions. The first session is December 13 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We will then listen to tribes with meetings in Minneapolis, Oklahoma City, Rapid City, San Diego and Anchorage. Our last scheduled consultation meeting is set for February 1 in Washington, D.C. We have also launched a new web site at that will provide updated information on our reform initiative.

I share your goal to fix the trust accounting system. Indian Country deserves it. And with your ideas, suggestions and participation, we can make reform a reality.

Native people in all parts of this great country have long used the natural materials of their environment to feed, shelter and heal themselves and their families, to record their histories, to create works of art, and to sustain their communities.

In short, they have used the natural resources at hand, but with reverence, gratitude and wise conservation for future use.

For this conference to be successful, we need to learn from you. We need your input on ways we can be more effective in helping you develop the projects you need to be successful. Please bring your ideas to the table and actively share them with us. That way our conference will be more beneficial and the long term future of Indian energy will be stronger.

Through their energy resources, tribes make a significant contribution to the nation's energy supply. You understand the value of replenishing and renewing resources for the future. America, in turn, must do its part to help tribes strengthen infrastructures and economies so that our children, families, and communities will thrive.

Energy development and conservation are traditional native ideals. Our challenge is to conserve our natural energy resources, use those resources wisely and ensure that they are available now and for future generations of Americans.

This is the lesson you are teaching us. Today we move forward with our mission, hand-in-hand, for a better tomorrow in Indian Country, and in every corner of this great nation.

Thank you.