President’s Memo Outlines New Environmental Policy

Link to Memorandum here.

The Obama Administration advised the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, Defense, EPA, and NOAA to avoid harming the environment by ensuring, at minimum, a “no net loss goal” for natural resources deemed important, scarce, or sensitive.  The Departments will forgo development of resources deemed “irreplaceable.”

The new policy requires federal regulators to evaluate every proposed natural resource project from a large-scale context, including water-shed and landscape impacts.  Going forward, the government’s policy will be to protect the environment by foreseeing and mitigating any damage ahead of time.  The Departments have been given a time table for finalizing mitigation mechanisms and guidance.

This is the latest episode in a controversy over energy developments in Indian Country.  Republicans in Congress are attempting to enact a law that would speed up energy development on Tribal lands after a GAO report criticized the 2005 federal process for transferring management of energy development to Tribes that has not resulted in any agreements (TERAs).

Ryan Dreveskracht Article on Tribal Energy Development

Ryan Dreveskrachthas published “Alternative Energy in American Indian Country: Catering to Both Sides of the Coin” in the Energy Law Journal. Here is the synopsis:

This article looks at both sides of the renewable energy “coin” in relation to American Indian country. On the one side, it appears that tribal governments are opposed to any energy development on their lands. All told, however, this couldn’t be further from the truth – tribes merely seek a seat at the table when decisions are made regarding developments that will adversely affect their lands and/or areas of cultural significance. Indeed, contrary to being opposed to alternative energy development, tribes are very actively seeking to develop their lands in a manner that is consistent with their cultures and traditions. But, large-scale alternative energy projects are virtually absent from Indian country. This article argues that the oft-overlooked other side of the renewable energy “coin” are the federal regulations that hinder these projects from coming to fruition. The final section of the article will discuss what Congress is – and is not – doing regarding the two sides of this “coin.”