Native Americans Left Out of Americas Wind Power Boom / 2008

Blog Entry Native Americans Left Out of America’s Wind Power Boom by Ann for everyone
Posted: Wed Jun 11, 2008 2:20 pm    Post subject:


“Native Americans Left Out of America’s Wind Power Boom
by Stacy Feldman – Mar 25th, 2008
You may recall 2007 as the year America broke every wind power record in the book. But you can bet that not every capable developer got a piece of the pie – and certainly not a single Native American tribe.Why? Because they’re not allowed to. So reports Indian Country Today.

The untold story:

Native American tribes are tax-exempt. In the eyes of the feds, that makes them 100 percent disqualified from receiving any of the federal tax credits for renewable energy production.

And when an outside company wants to team up with a tribe to build a clean energy project, guess what happens? The federal government won’t give them a full tax credit.

Guilty by association, apparently.

That is ”basically stopping” tribal ownership of wind turbines, says Tom Boucher, president of NativeEnergy, a Vermont-based company that helps build renewable energy projects.

Current legislation ”encourages outside developers not to partner with tribes because they will be penalized,” said Bob Gough, secretary of the Intertribal Council on Utility Policy, which represents 10 tribes.

It’s too bad, really. Tapping the gales of the Northern Plains could be a giant, unprecedented boon for America’s clean energy portfolio — and the tribal economies of the area, of course.

Just ask The US Department of Energy. Even it has explicitly stated that the two dozen reservations in the northern Great Plains have a combined wind power potential that’s equal to a stunning 50 percent of the entire installed electrical generation capacity in the United States.

And yet, they can’t go it alone. And the feds are the greatest obstacle of all.

Outside capital is essential to making tribally owned wind turbine projects a reality, Boucher said.

Still, there’s reason for hope. The current tax credits are set to expire in December 2008. A bill renewing the credits has already passed the House. It’s fate in the Senate remains uncertain.

Meanwhile, Sen. Tim Johnson (D-South Dakota) has introduced a companion bill in the Senate that would give Native American tribes the right to be principal owners of their own renewable energy projects. It would also ensure any non-Native partner a full tax credit.

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona) has introduced a similar bill in the House.

Again, fate uncertain.

Mr. Boucher helped to deliver the first — and the only — Native American wind turbine on the lands of the Rosebud Sioux five years ago.

The sole turbine is pictured above. The caption may as well read, Image: The Untapped Potential of Native American Wind Power.”

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