Feds Give Native Tribes Power To Kill Hydro Projects

In a significant policy shift, hydropower projects seeking to harness water resources on Native American lands will now be required to obtain approval from local tribes before proceeding. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recently announced this new policy while rejecting seven hydropower proposals that targeted various areas of Navajo Nation land.

The implications of this policy extend beyond the Navajo Nation, as it applies to any potential hydropower projects proposed on tribal lands throughout the United States. Native American officials must consent to a project before serious planning can commence. This marks a crucial recognition of tribal sovereignty and a departure from the historical neglect of Native American tribes’ interests.

Conservation groups and Native American nonprofits have widely welcomed the decision to involve local tribes in the approval process. Nicole Horseherder, the executive director of the Navajo nonprofit Tó Nizhóní Ání, expressed her support for the new policy, highlighting the potential damage that these projects could inflict on vital groundwater sources already impacted by decades of coal mining.

Under the new policy, the Native American community now holds the power to determine the feasibility and benefits of a proposed project. Heather Tanana, an attorney and member of the Navajo Nation, emphasized this shift, stating that community approval is now an essential requirement for any development to proceed.

The recognition of tribal sovereignty and the inclusion of Native American tribes in decision-making processes have been hailed as critical steps forward. George Hardeen, a representative of the Navajo Nation’s president’s office, emphasized the significance of this acknowledgment from federal decision-makers.

While this new policy marks a positive change, the Hopi Tribe has urged FERC to formalize the amendment to its rules to ensure consistent adherence to the new approval process. The Hopi Tribe emphasizes the need for government agencies to involve them in consultations and respect their decisions on the outcome of these discussions. Craig Andrews, Vice Chairman of the Hopi Tribe, emphasized that they are merely asking for a seat at the table when outside companies seek to build projects on their land base or ancestral spaces that hold significant cultural and historical value.

Chairman Timothy Nuvangyaoma of the Hopi Tribe highlighted the potential threats posed by the hydroelectric developments proposed near their sacred sites and ancestral places. He stressed the importance of preserving the natural order of things and protecting their cultural ties to these locations, which are integral to the Hopi way of life.

As the hydropower industry continues to expand, this new policy ensures that the interests and concerns of Native American tribes are given the attention and respect they deserve. By involving local tribes in the decision-making process, this policy aims to balance renewable energy development and preserving cultural and environmental heritage on Native American lands.