Native American Tribes Now Have Power to Veto Hydropower Projects

Hydropower projects that want to take advantage of water resources on Native American lands now must get the approval of local tribes in order to move their projects forward.

The new policy was announced by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as it rejected seven hydropower proposals eyeing different parts of Navajo Nation land, according to the Associated Press.

The new policy means that before serious planning can get underway, Native American officials must sign off on a project.

“It applies anywhere that a hydropower project might be proposed on tribal lands throughout the United States,” Aaron Paul, an attorney with Grand Canyon Trust, a conservation group, said.

“It is encouraging to see federal decision-makers honoring the trust responsibilities to Native American Tribes,” Nicole Horseherder, executive director of the Navajo nonprofit Tó Nizhóní Ání, said, according to KUER-FM.

“Historically, that has not been the case. These projects would have damaged vital groundwater sources that have already been harmed by 50 years of industrial overuse from coal mining,” Horseherder said.

Navajo Nation member and attorney Heather Tanana said that under the new policy “it’s fair to say that the community is in the driver’s seat now.

“Unless they’re the ones pursuing development that they view as beneficial to their community, it’s going to be a lot harder to happen,” she said.

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“This is the acknowledgment and respect of tribal sovereignty, which is critical,” George Hardeen, a representative of the Navajo Nation’s president’s office said, according to the AP.

The Hopi Tribe said in a statement that the change must be made permanent.

“Formal amendment of FERC’s rules is still required to ensure that the agency is required to conform to and implement this new policy for preliminary permits,” the statement said.

“Our Hopi community is simply asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to allow us to be at the table when outside companies want to build projects on our land base, along our waterways, or ancestral spaces that we have been connected to well before the arrival of colonizers,” Craig Andrews, Vice Chairman of the Hopi Tribe, said.

“We need continued protection of our sacred sites; we need these government agencies to simply reach out to us first for consultation and consent. In addition, we would like them to honor and respect our decisions on the outcome of the consultations,” he said.

Timothy Nuvangyaoma, Chairman of  the Hopi Tribe, said: “The sheer number of hydroelectric developments being proposed around us jeopardizes the natural order of things, and the strong longstanding cultural ties to the confluence in the Grand Canyon and other Hopi ancestral places, all of which supports our entire Hopi way of life.”

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The Hopi statement noted that a 2020 project FERC allowed to go ahead threatens land special to the Hopis.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

Source material can be found at this site.

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