Trump vows to help tribes ‘unleash’ energy reserves

Source: Emily Holden, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, June 29, 2017

President Trump kicked off a meeting with four governors and other state and tribal leaders today by vowing to unlock “vast treasures of energy reserves.”

Joined in the White House Roosevelt Room by Energy Secretary Rick Perry and U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, Trump said his administration is lifting red tape in order to develop energy resources and bring “prosperity” to more Americans.

The president said he’s looking forward to more government-to-government conversations with tribal leaders, who he said have seen “deeply unfair” infringements on their sovereignty.

“Many of your lands have rich natural resources that stand to benefit your people immensely. These untapped resources of wealth can help you build new schools, fix roads, improve your communities and create jobs, jobs like you’ve never seen before,” Trump said. “All you want is the freedom to use them, and that’s been the problem. It’s been very difficult, hasn’t it? It’ll be a lot easier now under the Trump administration.”

While nearly a dozen tribal leaders attended the meeting with Trump, few representatives from tribes that have expressly come out against tribal energy development or voiced concerns about climate change affecting them were there (Climatewire, Nov. 16, 2016). A representative of the Navajo Nation in the Southwest, which is looking for help to keep a struggling coal plant online, participated.

Flanked by administration energy advisers and leaders from around the country, Trump touted his administration’s work over the last four months to make America “energy dominant” and said that “for too long, the federal government has put up restrictions and regulations that put this energy wealth out of reach, just totally out of reach.”

Trump said he wanted to talk with state and tribal leaders about “unleashing domestic energy reserves, tremendous reserves we never appreciated, never understood — but now we understand them very well.”

Federal, state and tribal leaders will cooperate to “usher in a golden age of American energy dominance,” he said.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was not present but sent Vincent DeVito, his counselor for energy policy.

Attendees included Alaska Gov. Bill Walker (I), Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R), Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) and Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R). From Georgia, state Sen. Burt Jones (R) and electric regulator Lauren “Bubba” McDonald participated.

Tribal leaders in attendance:

  • Chairman Alvin AJ Not Afraid, from the Crow Nation reservation in Montana.
  • Chairman Luke Duncan, from the Ute Nation Uintah and Ouray Reservation in Utah and Colorado.
  • Councilman Kevin Frost, from the Southern Ute in Colorado.
  • Gov. Bill Anoatubby from the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma.
  • Speaker LoRenzo Bates from the Navajo Nation in Arizona and New Mexico.
  • Chairman Herman Honanie from the Hopi in Arizona.
  • Chairman Mark Fox from the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara in North Dakota.
  • Chief Gary Batton from the Choctaw in Oklahoma.
  • Chairman Jo Anne Battise from the Alabama-Coushatta in Texas.
  • Chairman Aaron Payment from the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa in Michigan.

Reporter Brittany Patterson contributed.