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Navajo Nation Backs Controversial Energy Bill

Navajo Nation Backs Controversial Energy Bill
October 13
08:34 2015

The Navajo Nation supports a controversial energy bill that passed the House of Representatives along a mostly party-line vote.

H.R. 538, the Native American Energy Bill, will allow tribes to enter directly into energy contracts without undergoing a review by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said the bill would “directly benefit” his people.

Republicans pushed the bill through the House October 8 despite the Democrats objections. Even the White House Office of Management and Budget opposed the legislation.

“Over all, H.R. 538 would not ensure diligent development of resources on Indian land,” the White House statement said.

Of the three Democrats representing Navajo districts, only Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick supported it. She was one of 11 Democrats that joined the 243 Republicans in backing the bill.

Introduced in January by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), the energy bill is unique in that it never received a hearing before any House committees.

“This is not a bill that came out of nowhere,” Young said.

H.R. 538 is similar to an earlier House bill, which never passed. That bill did have one hearing – but no tribal leaders testified on the bill.

But the Navajo Nation Oil and Gas Company, the tribe’s energy development firm, supported it.

Before becoming president, Begaye headed the NNOGC, which spent most of 2014 in a nasty leadership fight that went so far as to have Begaye file a suit in federal court in an attempt to overturn tribal law.

The energy bill does not address the real energy needs on tribal land, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said.

The Senate is scheduled to hold a hearing on its version of the Indian energy bill on October 26.

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