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Tribes will be able to take greater control of their energy resources under new regulations announced by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).

The National Energy Policy Act of 2005 authorized a voluntary program to speed up development on Indian lands. Participating tribes can submit resource plans to the Interior Department in order to gain quick approval of business deals, leases, rights-of-way and other types of energy agreements.

Currently, each individual agreement must be reviewed by the department. A federally-approved tribal energy resource agreement (TERA) will enable tribes to skip that process, but only after following an application process that takes at least one year to complete.

Even if the TERA is approved, the BIA retains the authority to conduct periodic reviews of the tribe's energy development. For the first three years, the BIA must conduct an annual review. After three years, the reviews can be conducted every two years.

If the BIA determines the tribe is not in compliance with the TERA, the BIA has the ability to order the tribe to take corrective steps or to halt energy development.


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