Sen. Franken Successfully Urged Senate Colleagues to Adopt Bipartisan Measure That Would Increase Access to Reliable Energy on Tribal Lands, Encourage Economic Growth
Published April 23, 2016
WASHINGTON — On Thursday, April 21, 2016, U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) successfully pressed his Senate colleagues to adopt a bipartisan measure to properly fund a key program that would help create jobs, ensure access to reliable energy on tribal lands in Minnesota, and enable tens of millions of dollars in new energy infrastructure investments. The measure will now be included in the comprehensive energy and water appropriations bill.
The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Tribal Energy Loan Guarantee Program will help bring power to the most remote parts of Indian Country by providing loan guarantees to tribes and tribal organizations to support electricity generation projects. The program—which was created more than a decade ago but has never received funding—would not only help generate reliable and resilient energy, but also support high-quality, good-paying jobs and promote economic growth in Indian Country.
You can download a link to Sen. Franken’s speech today by clicking here.
“Federal programs in Indian Country are chronically underfunded,” said Sen. Franken. “I have served on the Indian Affairs Committee for the past seven years, and I have been shocked by what I hear almost every week from tribal leaders about the challenges in Indian Country. Tribes struggle with crumbling schools, dilapidated roads, inadequate housing, and lack of basic infrastructure.
“Developing tribal energy resources will help tribes bring power to the most remote parts of Indian Country—improving access to reliable and resilient energy and providing much needed jobs,” Sen.Franken continued.
Sen. Franken, a member of the Senate Energy Committee and Senate Indian Affairs Committee, is a strong supporter of energy investments in Indian Country. By encouraging borrowers to cooperate with private entities—such as utility companies—the program will leverage private investment with local needs. DOE expects strong interest from borrowers who deploy the loan. Sen. Franken’s amendment was cosponsored by Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N. Dak.), and Tom Udall (D-N. Mex.).
You can read Sen. Franken’s remarks as prepared for delivery below.
Sen. Al Franken’s Statement Tribal Loan Guarantee Program
(As Prepared for Delivery)
Federal programs in Indian Country are chronically underfunded. I have served on the Indian Affairs Committee for the past seven years, and I have been shocked by what I hear almost every week from tribal leaders about the challenges in Indian Country. Tribes struggle with crumbling schools, dilapidated roads, inadequate housing, and lack of basic infrastructure.
Many of the crises we hear about in Indian Country stem from the lack of opportunity – lack of hope. Indian youth have the highest rate of suicide among all ethnic groups in the United States. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for Native youth aged 15-24. Indian suicide rate is 62% higher than general population. Unemployment on Indian reservations is 19%. And on some reservations it’s above 50%.
Senators Murkowksi, Heitkamp, and Udall understand the dire needs of Indian Country which is why they have cosponsored my amendment. And so does Chairman Barrasso which is why he supports this amendment. They understand that we have to support economic development for tribes wherever we can.
My amendment sets aside 9 million dollars – which can be leveraged into about 50-85 million dollars worth of loans for energy projects in Indian Country. Developing tribal energy resources will help tribes bring power to the most remote parts of Indian Country—improving access to reliable and resilient energy and providing much needed jobs.
This is why Congress authorized the loan program in the Energy Policy Act of 2005—to help tribes access the capital they need to develop energy projects. But this program has never received funding.
My amendment doesn’t cost anything. We are simply putting $9 million of already-appropriated money toward a new use. I want to thank Senators Murkowski, Heitkamp and Udall for cosponsoring my amendment, and I want to thank Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Feinstein for their leadership. And finally I would like to thank Secretary Moniz who has been a champion for this program.
I urge my colleagues to support Franken amendment 3833 to bring jobs to Indian Country.