Energy Right-Of-Way

The US Departments of Energy and Interior have told Congress that energy rights of way on Indian lands are best left to tribes and energy companies to negotiate without government interference. 

In a report submitted to Congress Tuesday and made public Wednesday, the agencies, however, left the door open for the federal government to step in if the nation's need for energy was ever deemed to be jeopardized by tribal decisions. 

 
The joint study was assigned to the departments as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which included other provisions encouraging energy production and transmission on tribal lands. 
 
Energy companies have sometimes complained that building pipelines and other infrastructure on tribal lands is costly, and that tribes can be capricious in giving their consent. 
 
Indian tribes maintain that they have the right to enter into energy production and right of way agreements at their own discretion, and that federal oversight of their business choices is illegitimate. 
 
While the report found that the negotiation processes for establishing or renewing rights of way on tribal land "could benefit from mutually agreed-upon practices, procedures, and actions that would improve understanding and collaboration among the parties," it said the "valuation of energy [rights of way] on tribal lands should continue to be based on terms negotiated between the parties." But, the report added that if a "failure in the negotiations over the grant, expansion, or renewal of an energy [right of way] has a signficiant regional or national effect on the supply, price or reliability of energy resources" then Congress "should consider resolving such a situation through specific legislation rather than making broader changes that would affect tribal sovereignty or self-determination generally."
 
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