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Tribal Energy and Environmental Information Clearinghouse
Tribal Energy and Environmental Information Clearinghouse: Environmental resources for tribal energy development
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TEEIC Frequently Asked Questions

A list of frequently asked questions about tribal energy development and related environmental information, and the Tribal Energy and Environmental Information Clearinghouse (TEEIC) Web site.

Below is a list of frequently asked questions about evaluating potential energy resources on tribal lands, tribal energy development, environmental impact assessment and monitoring, and other issues concerning energy development on tribal lands. Click a question below to see the answer.

Evaluating Tribal Potential Energy Resources

Developing Tribal Energy Resources

Laws and Regulations

Environmental Concerns

Tribal Energy Resource Agreements (TERAs)

Energy Products or Services

Getting More Information and Assistance

Web Site Suggestions and Concerns

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What are energy resources?

Energy resources are resources that can be developed to produce energy, in the form of electricity or liquid fuels, or to produce heat. These resources include both non-renewable resources (such as oil, natural gas, coal, and uranium) and renewable resources (such as wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, and hydropower). Energy resources can be developed at a large, utility-scale to produce large quantities of electricity or to supply large refineries and power plants. In addition, some energy resources, such as wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, and hydropower, can be generated at a smaller scale to power communities or individual buildings.

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How can a tribe determine which energy resources may be developed on its tribal lands?

The Office of Indian Energy and Economic Development's (IEED's) Division of Energy and Mineral Development Office (DEMD) has a technical library which contains digital versions of energy and mineral resource reports which were completed in the late 1970's and early 1980's by the U.S. Geological Survey on almost all Indian reservations in the United States. These publicly available reports include comprehensive details on all of the conventional energy and mineral resources that are either known or are inferred to exist on Indian lands. DEMD has PDF versions of all reports. While these reports are specific to conventional (non-renewable) energy and mineral resources, there is considerable information about renewable energy in the public domain that can be located easily on several Web sites, such as the Department of Energy's renewable energy sites. For more information and assistance, contact the DEMD at (303) 969-5270, review the DEMD summary, or visit the DEMD Web site.

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How can a tribe determine whether development of its energy resource(s) is economically feasible?

An energy assessment study can be prepared to determine whether development of a tribe's energy resource(s) is economically feasible. An energy assessment can assists tribes in planning and negotiating energy resource development.

IEED's Division of Energy and Mineral Development (DEMD) has an annual tribal grant program that provides funds on a competitive basis for tribes to perform assessment studies of their energy resources. The grant program, known as the Energy and Mineral Development Program (EMDP) has existed for two decades (and was formerly called the Mineral Assessment Program). Many tribes have already taken advantage of this grant program, particularly for assessing conventional energy resources such as oil, natural gas, and coal. Currently, many tribes are applying for grant funds to determine whether their renewable energy resources, such as wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal, are economically feasible to develop.

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How can a tribe obtain assistance for the energy resource promotion phase?

The IEED Division of Energy and Mineral Development (DEMD) Energy and Mineral Development Program grant program provides support for tribal energy resource promotion activities (e.g., attending industry conferences, producing publications, or e-commerce).

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How can a tribe obtain assistance for the energy resource development phase?

The IEED Division of Energy and Mineral Development provides support for the energy resource development phase which includes finding and attracting investors or partners or locating capital to invest.

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How can a tribe develop energy resources at a small-scale to benefit the tribe?

Small-scale energy development, also known as distributed generation, can be economically viable for many tribes. Resources that lend themselves to small-scale development include wind, solar, and geothermal. The DOE has Web sites with information about small-scale wind power, small-scale solar power, and geothermal heat pumps.

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What types of activities may be involved in energy resource development?

Energy resource development activities may include any of the following activities: resource assessment and evaluation, exploration, extraction, processing, refining, facility construction and operation, environmental review and compliance, marketing, distribution, and reclamation. In addition, energy resource development may also include permitting, leasing, compliance monitoring, production accounting, and accounting for royalty payments.

A good resource for information about the planning and development of tribal energy resources is DOE's Guide to Tribal Energy Development, which has a section devoted to the tribal energy development process.

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What specific laws govern the development of energy resource on tribal lands?

Under the Indian Mineral and Development Act, a tribe may develop Indian trust mineral resources, such as oil and gas, coal, and coalbed methane. Under the Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act (i.e., under a Tribal Energy Resource Agreement [TERA]), a tribe may develop any energy resource, including renewable energy resources. Other federal laws, regulations, and Executive Orders apply to energy resource development on tribal lands and are presented the Laws and Regulations section of the TEEIC Web site.

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Where can I get more information about energy efficiency and conservation?

Every tribe can take advantage of energy efficiency and conservation measures, which are discussed in the Energy Efficiency and Conservation section of the TEEIC Web site.

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What laws and regulations apply to energy development on tribal lands?

Numerous federal laws, regulations, and Executive Orders apply to energy development on tribal lands. In addition, a tribe may enact its own environmental or energy development regulations.

The Laws and Regulations section of the TEEIC Web site presents useful information about the federal laws, regulations, and Executive Orders, organized by the potential impact area to which they apply. Laws, regulations, and Executive Orders relevant to particular energy resources are also presented on the Laws and Regulations page of each Energy Resource.

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Do state or local regulations apply to energy resource development on tribal lands?

While there are a number of federal laws, regulations, and Executive Orders that apply to energy development activities, for the most part, state laws and regulations do not apply to energy development on tribal lands. The Laws and Regulations section of the TEEIC Web site presents useful information about federal laws, regulations, and Executive Orders, organized by the potential impact area to which they apply. Laws, regulations, and Executive Orders relevant to particular energy resources are also presented on the Laws and Regulations page of each Energy Resource.

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What are the environmental impacts associated with energy development and how can they be mitigated?

It is not currently possible to produce energy at a commercial scale without some impacts to the environment; however, by careful planning, understanding of potential impacts and appropriate mitigation measures, and adherence to sound environmental practices throughout all phases of energy production, many negative environmental impacts associated with energy development can be reduced or avoided. The TEEIC Web site is intended to provide tribes with information about energy resource development and associated environmental impacts and mitigation measures; guidance for conducting site-specific environmental analyses and developing monitoring programs; and other information to help tribes ensure that energy development on tribal lands is conducted in an environmentally responsible manner.

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Where can I get information about how energy resource development affects climate change?

Renewable energy resources such and wind and solar power have negligible effects on climate change, while fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas emit substantial quantities of greenhouse gases when burned for utility-scale commercial power generation using technologies currently available. More information about potential climate change impacts of the energy resources presented through this Web site is available within the Potential Impacts section of each Energy Resource. More information about climate change impacts on tribes is available on the Tribes and Climate Change Web site of the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals.

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How will energy development affect our water supplies?

While all types of utility-scale energy generation have the potential for some impacts to water resources, in general, energy generation that involves heating water to make steam, for example burning coal or using concentrating solar power to boil water to drive steam turbines, has much greater potential impacts on water resources than energy generation that does not use water for heating and cooling, for example wind power. More information about potential water impacts of the energy resources presented through this Web site is available within the Potential Impacts section of each Energy Resource.

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How do we assess the environmental impacts of a specific project?

A project-specific impact assessment for energy developments projects requires first determining the anticipated impacts of project implementation, including site evaluation, exploration, and other preconstruction activities; construction; operation; and decommissioning. Mitigation strategies to avoid or reduce impacts to important resources are then developed. Detailed information about conducting a project-specific environmental assessment is available in Conducting Project-Specific Impact Analyses under the Assessments and Monitoring section of this Web site.

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Once we begin developing an energy resource on our tribal lands, what are the requirements for pollution monitoring and other monitoring activities?

Monitoring activities are necessary to determine long-term impacts of a project and the effectiveness of mitigation strategies that were implemented. This helps ensure that project impacts are as anticipated and do not exceed acceptable levels. Project-Specific Monitoring Programs under the Assessments and Monitoring section of this Web site provides guidance on developing monitoring programs for all phases of project implementation.

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What is a Tribal Energy Resource Agreement?

A Tribal Energy Resource Agreement (TERA) grants authority to a tribe to review and approve leases, business agreements, and rights-of-way for energy development on tribal lands, without the approval of the Secretary of the Interior. For more information, see the About Tribal Energy Resource Agreements (TERAs) page of the TEEIC Web site.

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Why would a tribe consider a TERA for its energy resource development?

A TERA is one of the avenues for tribal self-determination available to tribes for energy development. Under a TERA approved by the Secretary of the Interior, a tribe may, at its discretion, enter into leases and business agreements and grant rights-of-way for energy development or transmission on its tribal lands without review and approval by the Secretary. In addition, under an approved TERA, a tribe may:

  • Retain the option of entering into energy-related leases and business agreements under laws other than TERA;
  • Include related existing leases, business agreements, and grants of rights-of-way in a TERA by amendment or modification of the existing leases, business agreements, or rights-of-way (with agreement of the other party(ies) to the agreements);
  • Assume energy-related administrative and regulatory activities consistent with the scope of the TERA;
  • Designate categories of energy-related leases, business agreements, or rights-of-way that it are not including in a TERA; and
  • Amend the scope of its TERA as to administrative and regulatory activities, with the approval of the Secretary.

Upon receipt of a complete TERA application (which includes a proposed TERA), the Secretary must approve or disapprove the TERA within 270 days.

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What lands and energy resources may a tribe include in a TERA?

A TERA applies only to tribal land (defined as any land or interests in land owned by any Indian tribe, title to which is held in trust by the United States, or is subject to a restriction against alienation under laws of the United States). A tribe may include all or only parts of its tribal land in a TERA. However, a tribe must specify in its TERA application whether it is including all or only parts of its tribal land and include descriptions of the land.

A tribe may include one or more of its energy resources in a TERA. However, a tribe must specify in its TERA application and TERA the energy resource(s) it is including and provide the required information relating to the tribe's capacity to develop each of the energy resources specified.

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What is the process for developing and obtaining a TERA?

The document below contains a flow chart that outlines the basic TERA process.

PDF TERA Process Flow Chart (24 KB)

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I am interested in learning more about specific products or services related to energy development or energy efficiency. Can you tell me where I might find these products or services?

We're sorry, but TEEIC does not promote or provide links to for-profit enterprises or their products.

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I am aware of a product or service that I feel would be of use to TEEIC Web site users. Can you provide a link to it on the TEEIC Web site?

We're sorry, but TEEIC does not promote or provide links to for-profit enterprises or their products.

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Does the TEEIC Web site provide information about funding sources, e.g., grants for tribal energy initiatives?

The TEEIC Web site is primarily focused on tribal energy and environmental issues. When appropriate and timely, specific funding opportunities may be announced via a news item and/or announcement to our email subscribers.

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Where can I get information on specific programs or incentives that can support my tribe's energy development efforts?

Information about government programs and tribal incentives related to energy development is available on the TEEIC Web site, on the “Government Programs and Tribal Incentives” Web pages listed for each energy resource type in the Energy Resources section of the TEEIC. Follow the links below to learn more:

  1. Wind Programs and Tribal Incentives
  2. Solar Programs and Tribal Incentives
  3. Oil and Gas Programs and Tribal Incentives
  4. Coal Programs and Tribal Incentives

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Are there tribal energy or environmental organizations that we can talk to?

There are many tribal and environmental organizations able to provide tribes with information or assistance to develop energy resources and address associated environmental issues. See the Tribal and Federal Contacts page of the TEEIC Web site for contact information for tribes, tribal leaders, and tribal environmental and energy programs, as well as contact information for a variety of Federal agencies associated with tribal energy and environmental issues. You can also find links to Web sites for tribal and organizations on the “Government Programs and Tribal Incentives” and “Case Studies and General Information Pages” within the Energy Resources section of the TEEIC Web site.

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The name, phone number, or e-mail address listed for our tribal contact is wrong. How can I let you know?

Most of the contact information provided through the TEEIC Web site comes from lists maintained by other organizations, and these lists are not maintained by TEEIC. If you notice contact information that is incorrect, please contact the organization maintaining the list via the contact information provided at the Web site hosting the list. If you notice inaccuracies in contact information provided through the TEEIC Web site, please contact the TEEIC Content Manager at:

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I can't seem to get a link or form on the Web site to work. How can I get help?

Please contact the BIA Web Team at: webteam@bia.gov.

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How do I subscribe or unsubscribe from the TEEIC e-mail list?

Subscribe to the TEEIC e-mail list by simply entering your e-mail address in the “Subscribe” box in the margin of any page on the TEEIC Web site. You may unsubscribe by entering your e-mail address on the Unsubscribe page, or by following the “Unsubscribe” instructions at the bottom of TEEIC e-mails.

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