Policy Update Oct 7, 2015

Position on H.R. 538 Native American Energy Act

NPCA urges members of the House of Representatives to vote NO on H.R. 538, the Native American Energy Act. This position was sent to all members of the House of Representatives ahead of a floor vote on October 8, 2015.

If passed, this bill would eliminate broad public participation for projects on tribal lands, severely limit the ability of the public (including tribal members) to seek judicial review for energy projects on tribal lands, and block necessary environmental protections.

H.R. 538 would amend the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to exclude those not living within the undefined “affected area” from commenting on Environmental Impact Statements for federal actions on tribal lands. The need for public involvement in governmental decision-making is a pillar of NEPA. As with energy projects anywhere, the potential impacts of energy projects on tribal lands need to be fully understood by neighboring communities and landowners, including the National Park Service, before moving forward.

Further, the bill would insulate energy projects on tribal lands from judicial review by restricting the amount of time to file claims and by making the pursuit of a legal challenge far too expensive for the average citizens. These burdensome provisions would apply to anyone seeking judicial review of an energy project on tribal lands, including tribal members themselves.

Lastly, the bill would eliminate health and environmental protections established by the Department of the Interior (DOI) in rules regarding hydraulic fracturing. Those living on and near tribal lands would be potentially subjected to heightened risk of spills, underground contamination from toxic chemicals, weakened air quality, reduced well construction standards, and other benefits from the DOI’s updates to long out-of-date rules.