National Tribal Energy Summit, 4-5 May 2011

The U.S. Department of Energy today released details of the upcoming Tribal Summit with American Indian and Alaska Native Leaders that will be held on May 4-5, 2011, at the Crystal City Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Va. The summit will build on Secretary Chu’s continued commitment to partnering with Native Americans to support the development of clean energy projects on tribal lands that will help reduce energy use, limit carbon pollution, and create new jobs for tribal communities across the country

“Tribal Nations are well-positioned to take advantage of the benefits of clean energy. This summit will provide an opportunity for meaningful dialogue between the Department of Energy and Tribal Nations on a broad range of energy and environmental issues,” said Secretary Chu. “Working together we can achieve important goals of President Obama’s National Energy Policy to the benefit of American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes as well as our Nation as a whole.”

Secretary Chu has invited the leadership of all 565 federally recognized tribes, as well as national and regional tribal organizations to attend the summit. Speakers include Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, White House Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Heather Zichal and White House Domestic Policy Advisor Kim Teehee.

WHAT: Tribal Summit with American Indian and Alaska Native Leaders

WHEN: Wednesday and Thursday, May 4-5, 2011

WHERE: Crystal City Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Va. and live online  (May 5 only).

Additional information, including a detailed agenda, is available HERE.

New $5 Million Federal Tribal Energy Grant Program

The Rural Innovation Fund Program, a successor to the defunct Rural Housing and Economic Development (RHED) program, sets aside $25.75 million from the Community Development Block Grant Program for grants to tribes, state housing finance agencies, state community and/or economic development agencies, local rural nonprofits, and community development corporations to address the problems of concentrated rural housing distress and community poverty.

Out of the total $25 million appropriated, $5 million is reserved "to promote economic development and entrepreneurship for federally recognized Indian tribes, through activities including the capitalization of revolving loan programs and business planning and development" and for "technical assistance to increase capacity through training and outreach activities."

For more information, visit the HUD Web site or contact Robert Duncan, Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Development, Office of Community Planning and Development at 202-402-4681 or 1-877-787-2526.

Applications are due February 23, 2011. For details, visit Grants.gov.

$495 Million in Federal Funding Available for Tribal Energy And Environmental Projects

The federal government has announced the availability of nearly $495 million in current or upcoming funding opportunities for state, local, and Tribal governments from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that can be used to support climate and energy initiatives including energy efficiency, regional planning, and community education. For further information on the application process, please contact Greg Guedel.


EPA Funding for Facilitating Tribal Climate Change Adaptation Planning and Communicating Climate Change Impacts - $550,000
Application Due: July 30, 2010

Eligible Entities: States, local governments, territories, Indian tribes, and possessions of the United States, including the District of Columbia; international organizations, public and private universities and colleges, hospitals, laboratories, other public or private nonprofit institutions.

EPA announces the availability of funding to facilitate, communicate, and put in motion tribal climate change adaptation planning to respond to the projected impacts of climate change. The Agency expects to award approximately one to three cooperative agreements ranging from approximately $50,000 to $150,000 per year up to five years. EPA requests proposals to provide direct training, technical assistance, and outreach aimed at increasing and enhancing tribal expertise in adaptation planning and climate change risk communication. For more information, visit: http://www.epa.gov/air/grants_funding.html


DOE Weatherization Assistance Program - $210 million
Application Due: Ongoing to August 1, 2010
Eligible Entities: Agencies responsible for administering annual WAP formula allocation

DOE requests proposals for Weatherization Formula Grants. Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) funds are used to increase the energy efficiency of dwellings owned or occupied by low-income persons, reduce their total residential expenditures, and improve their health and safety. WAP assists persons who are particularly vulnerable, such as the elderly; persons with disabilities; families with children; high residential energy users; and households with high energy burdens. Prime applicant eligibility is restricted to agencies responsible for administering the annual WAP formula allocation. Fifty-eight awards are anticipated. The response due date depends on the fiscal year end of the prime applicant, with range of 2/15/10 – 8/1/10.
For more info, go to:
https://www.fedconnect.net/FedConnect/?doc=DE-FOA-0000216&agency=DOE

EPA Grants and Cooperative Agreements for Greenhouse Gas Reporting Systems: Outreach to Reporting Facilities and Analysis of Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Opportunities - $2 million
Informal Notice of Intent to Apply: July 16, 2010; Application Due: August 9, 2010
Eligible Entities: States; local governments; territories; Indian tribes; and possessions of the United States, including the District of Columbia; international organizations; public and private universities and colleges; hospitals; laboratories; other public or private non-profit institutions.

EPA is soliciting proposals for communicating to affected facilities the requirements of state greenhouse gas reporting systems compared with those of U.S. EPA’s Final Mandatory Reporting of Greenhouse Gases Rule (MRR), and to identify options for how the data collected through state reporting requirements and the MRR may be used to facilitate state- and facility-based greenhouse gas programs.

For more information, visit:
http://www.epa.gov/air/grants_funding.html (RFP# EPA-OAR-CCD-10-05). A direct link to the RFP is: http://www.epa.gov/air/grants/ccd-10-05_mrr_state_grant_rfp_r1.pdf


Joint HUD and DOT Community Challenge and Transportation Planning Grants - $75 million
Pre-Application Due: July 26, 2010; Full Application Due: August 23, 2010
Eligible Entities: State and local governments, including U.S. territories, tribal governments, transit agencies, port authorities, metropolitan planning organizations, other political subdivisions of state or local governments, and multi-state or multijurisdictional groupings.

For the first time ever, DOT and HUD will join forces to award up to $75 million in funding: $35 million in TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) II Planning Grants and $40 million in Sustainable Community Challenge Grants for localized planning activities that ultimately lead to projects that integrate transportation, housing and economic development. For more information, visit:
http://www.hud.gov/offices/adm/grants/nofa10/huddotnofa.cfm


HUD Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant Program - $100 million
Application Due: August 23, 2010
Eligible Applicants: Multijurisdictional and multisector partnerships consisting of a consortium of government entities and non-profit partners

HUD is currently accepting applications for the Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant Program. This program will support metropolitan and multijurisdictional planning efforts that integrate housing, land use, economic and workforce development, transportation, and infrastructure investments in a manner that empowers jurisdictions to consider the interdependent challenges of economic competitiveness and revitalization; social equity, inclusion, and access to opportunity; energy use and climate change; and public health and environmental impact. For more information, visit http://www.hud.gov/offices/adm/grants/nofa10/scrpg.cfm 


EPA Black Carbon, Climate and Air Quality- $7 million
Application Due: September 22, 2010
Eligible Entities: State and local governments and others


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requests proposals for Black Carbon’s Role in Global to Local Scale Climate and Air Quality. This RFP will support areas including, but not limited to, emission source research, the global- to local-scale emissions inventory, and co-pollutants. This RFP will also support opportunities for early career projects. $7 million is expected to be available, and up to 9 awards are anticipated. For more information, contact Bryan Bloomer at bloomer.bryan@epa.gov or go to: http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/2010/2010_star_blackcarbon.html. Refer to Sol# EPA-G2010-STAR-L1 and EPA-G2010-STAR-L2.
 

EDA Global Climate Change Mitigation Incentive Fund - $14.7 million
Application Due: September 30, 2010
Eligible Entities: State and local governments, nonprofit organizations

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) advances economic growth by assisting communities experiencing chronic high unemployment and low per capita income to create an environment that fosters innovation, promotes entrepreneurship, and attracts increased private capital investment. EDA requests proposals for the following programs: Public Works, Planning, Local Technical Assistance, and Economic Adjustment Assistance. Under the Economic Adjustment Assistance program, EDA has allocated $14.7 million to the Global Climate Change Mitigation Incentive Fund, which supports projects that foster economic competitiveness while enhancing environmental quality. Proposals are being accepted and are being reviewed on an ongoing basis. For more info, including contact info, go to: http://www.grants.gov/search/search.do?mode=VIEW&oppId=48106.
 

IRS Ruling Provides Good News For Tribal Energy Bonds

Reservation Energy Projects - Oneida Tribe of Indians

A recent Private Letter Ruling by the IRS has held that for certain purposes related to government finance, Native American Tribes are to be treated like states. This allows Tribes to issue financially-attractive tax exempt bonds to finance projects related to “essential government functions”. Normally, commercial or industrial activity by Tribes is not considered an “essential” function of Tribal government, thereby precluding the issuance of tax exempt bonds for such activities. However, the IRS ruling states that an exemption to this rule exists for utilities “if the activity provides substantially all of its service on (a) tribe’s reservation. A utility-type activity includes the furnishing or sale of electrical energy, gas, water, or sewage disposal services.”

Stating that “we find the ownership, operation, and financing with proceeds of tax-exempt bonds of the facilities of municipal power utilities to be both sufficiently prevalent and sufficiently longstanding among state and local governments to be considered customarily performed by state and local governments.” Since Tribes and states are treated the same by the IRS in this context, the IRS held that Tribal utility projects may be financed with tax-exempt bonds when they are “not a commercial activity, (are) indistinguishable from public works projects...focus on benefits to local citizens, and are not in competition with other businesses.” The ruling also allows for some energy generated by Tribal projects to be sold to off-reservation users, so long as “the electrical power generated by (the Tribe) will be used to service the local population with only minimal amounts of power sold to customers in the immediate vicinity of the Reservation that are not adequately served by other power providers.”

At a time when interest in and opportunities for generating renewable energy on Tribal Lands are beginning to soar, the ability of Tribes to finance such projects with desirable tax-exempt investment vehicles will help raise necessary capital even in the current economic climate.
 

Tribal Energy Development - Learning The Rules For Producing The Power

(Solar Panels for Tribal Housing, Romona Band of Cahuilla Indians, Anza, California)

When it comes to developing energy resources, many Tribes appear to be in the right place at the right time in 2009. Native communities blessed with wind, water, solar, or geologic resources are likely to see broad demand for their development, as the United States pushes for increased domestic energy production in general and of alternative/renewable sources in particular. The Department of Energy is actively seeking Tribal participation in energy development, the federal economic stimulus packages currently being debated in Congress contain funding and tax credits for energy projects on reservations, and private entities are realizing and pursuing the untapped energy sources present in many Native lands.

While the potential benefit to Tribes and the rest of the country from this energy drive appears vast, realizing that potential requires navigating various federal laws and regulations. Recent federal legislation such as the Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act, 25 U.S.C. §§ 3501–3506 (ITEDSA) sets forth rights and procedures for Tribes to pursue development of energy resources on their lands. Through ITEDSA, Tribes can negotiate energy resource agreements (“TERAs”) with the Department of the Interior, which provide authorization for Tribes to pursue energy development and transmission activities of all kinds. The newness of ITEDSA – the final regulations for which came into effect in 2008 – presents both a challenge and an opportunity for Tribes. Tribes that have a firm grasp of both the nature of their natural resources and the rules for negotiating TERAs can put themselves in the forefront of new energy production, thereby producing a vital resource for their members and new revenue from power sales to outside entities.

Understanding the federal laws and procedures for energy development is critical for Tribes not just to speed up the development process, but also to protect their legal and resource rights. Professor Judith Royster’s recent article regarding Tribal sovereignty and implementation of ITEDSA highlights previous instances when Tribes lost hundreds of millions of dollars in potential energy revenues, primarily due to having less information than their non-Tribal lessees regarding the true nature and extent of the Tribe’s natural resources. While the provisions of ITEDSA are designed to help prevent these egregious scenarios and create a “level playing field” for all parties, it is crucial for Tribes to be knowledgeable of their rights and opportunities -- and to be proactive in exercising them.
 

Colville Tribe Explores Wind Energy

Confederated Tribes of the Colville, a Native American tribe in northeastern Washington, is partnering with Clipper Windpower, a California company, to explore the potential for wind energy. Last July, Clipper placed three wind gauges on the Colville reservation. The wind testing is supposed to continue until about midyear.

If studies prove the wind blows hard enough and often enough there, Clipper will build a wind farm with up to 500 turbines. This would be a big boost to the local economy, as it is predicted that a wind farm of that size could create 50 to 200 temporary jobs during construction, then 10 to 20 permanent jobs to operate and maintain the wind turbines. Eventually, the tribes would own all or part of the wind farm, which is positive from a tribal ownership perspective.

This proposal to Colville is the company's first in a new focus to explore American Indian tribal lands for wind potential nationwide. Hopefully,this project will be successful so that wind opportunities for the tribes continue to grow.


 

DOE Asks Tribes To Help Develop Alternative Energy Sources

The Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a Request For Information seeking feedback from Tribes and other parties interested in the deployment of renewable energy in Indian Country in the contiguous 48 States. The information will be used by DOE for internal planning and decision making under the federal Tribal Energy Program. Although Tribal Trust land comprises 5% of the land area in the United States (55.7 million acres) and contains an estimated 10% of all energy resources in the United States, (both conventional and renewable), less than a few hundred megawatts of renewable energy has been developed in Indian Country. Moreover, most of those are land lease deals as opposed to Tribes having ownership positions in the projects.

The information sought in the RFI is intended to assist DOE in determining barriers to renewable energy deployment and the most beneficial and efficient way for DOE to help accelerate the deployment of renewable energy in Indian Country. Energy development in Indian Country holds the possibility of providing energy to power local economic development, supporting the growing Native American population, creating businesses resulting in local jobs, or creating a revenue stream to help overcome some of the poverty that exists in many Native communities. Importantly, energy produced locally can also support Tribal sovereignty.

The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 extended Production Tax Credits (PTCs) for one year and broadened the eligible technologies, along with provisions for the long-term extension of Investment Tax Credits (ITCs) for renewable energy projects. As non-taxable entities, however, Tribes are not eligible for these credits unless they partner with a for-profit entity with tax liability. This restriction limits the ability of Tribes to have ownership positions in Tribal renewable energy projects. Further, the extension of PTCs and ITCs may limit renewable energy hardware availability and transmission capacity even for those Tribes that have investment funds.

Legislation has recently been introduced which may have enabled Tribes the ability to have ownership positions in energy development in Indian Country by allowing Tribes to transfer their PTCs to a taxable partner. These bills, however, have not been enacted. Hence, current Federal policy has not supported Tribally-owned renewable energy project development from a tax-mitigation perspective. Tribes now have an opportunity to highlight these discrepancies to the DOE and provide advice on how to eliminate current obstacles to energy development on Tribal lands.

Tribes and other interested parties should send responses to the RFI (one attachment only) via email with the title “RFI Response” to tribal@go.doe.gov. Responses should be submitted in Microsoft Word or PDF as an email attachment to the address above and received no later than 8:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time on February 28, 2009.