Bill Would Update and Improve Department of Energy’s Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs

WASHINGTON, D.C. [10/16/2019]—Today, U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) introduced the bipartisan Tribal Energy Reauthorization Act (TERA), which would update eligibility requirements for energy project grants and encourage more locally and regionally based partnerships when providing technical assistance to tribes.

Sens. Smith and Murkowski—both members of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee—said the legislation would reauthorize and improve the Department of Energy’s Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs (OIE). The bill reauthorizes OIE and the Tribal Energy Loan Guarantee Program (TELGP) through 2030.

“We need to work with people in local communities—those who are closest to the work—in order to figure out how the federal government can best support them. Our bipartisan bill recognizes this and dials in on helping Tribal communities work with OIE, and provides needed help for Tribes seeking loans to improve energy infrastructure,” said Sen. Smith. “I have seen first-hand in Minnesota the important role that Tribes can play in the clean energy transition and the fight against climate change. This bill encourages more energy project grants, and ensures we’re living up to our responsibility to support energy system development for Tribes in Minnesota and across the country.”

“We know that many rural and tribal communities face extreme energy challenges and pay some of the highest rates for electricity in the entire country,” said Sen. Murkowski. “OIE has the potential to be transformative. Our bill will improve OIE to ensure its impact is both positive and consistent for Alaska Natives and American Indians.”

TERA would:

  • Authorize OIE and the TELGP through 2030;
  • Allow non-profit electric cooperatives that serve tribal communities to apply for OIE funding;
  • Provide OIE with the ability to take into consideration the fiscal ability of a grant applicant to meet cost-share requirements, and adjust accordingly;
  • Encourage OIE to prioritize fostering relationships with and utilizing local and community expertise; and
  • Direct OIE to dedicate staff to ensure tribes are aware of relevant funding opportunities across all federal agencies.

You can access more information about TERA here and text of the bill here.