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Native American Tribes Given Power To Halt Hydropower Projects  

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has granted Native American tribes more power to block hydropower projects on their lands if they oppose the plans.  

FERC has previously applied the general policy of granting permits to planned hydropower projects even where Tribes have raised issues over the impact of such projects, which require enormous amounts of water in areas such as the Southwest, where water is scarce.

However, FERC denied last week preliminary permit applications for seven pumped storage hydroelectric projects proposed on Navajo Nation land, and said it has recently revised the “general policy of granting permits.” 

The federal regulator’s trust responsibility to Tribes should be similar to when permits have been opposed by federal land managers or similarly affected federal agencies, the commission said.

Therefore, FERC is “establishing a new policy that the Commission will not issue preliminary permits for projects proposing to use Tribal lands if the Tribe on whose lands the project is to be located opposes the permit.”

FERC advises potential applicants to work closely with Tribal stakeholders prior to filing applications to ensure that Tribes are fully informed about proposed projects on their lands and to determine whether they are willing to consider the project development.  

“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 in a statement.

Earlier this month, the Hopi Tribe called on the regulator to change its rules for granting preliminary permits for hydroelectric projects on tribal lands.

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“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,” said Craig Andrews, Vice Chairman of the Hopi Tribe.

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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