The largest national organization of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments is calling on the Biden administration to pause offshore wind projects. They want to ensure that tribes are included in project planning and that there are measures in place to protect their territories and traditional resources.
In a resolution adopted this week, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) “strongly urges the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to halt all scoping and permitting for offshore wind projects until completion of a comprehensive and transparent procedure adequately protecting tribal environmental and sovereign interests is developed and implemented.” It was adopted during a meeting of the organization’s general assembly that ended yesterday, Bloomberg reports.
The Biden administration has swiftly opened up much of the US coastline to offshore wind development. The plan is to build out large wind farms that can help the US meet its climate commitments under the Paris agreement. So far, the US only has a couple small offshore operations capable of generating just 42 megawatts. Biden wants to reach 30,000MW of offshore wind energy by 2030.
Some proposed offshore projects are located near federally recognized tribal territory. Yet concerns from Indigenous peoples are often sidelined, according to researchers and advocates. They’re worried that wind energy might repeat the harms committed by fossil fuel companies and other extractive industries. In a commentary in CalMatters last month, Frankie Myers, vice chairman of the Yurok Tribe, called out wind energy companies for not meeting with the tribe after bidding for wind leases off the coast of California.
“California tribes are worried that these corporations will come in, profit off of our resources and leave our communities poorer for it – as their predecessors did,” Myers wrote.
The resolution adopted by NCAI this week urges the Biden administration to fulfill a legal obligation to consult tribal nations on any energy projects that could have an impact on their territories. That includes negotiating “fair compensation” for using their lands and resources and protections to prevent damage to the environment or cultural heritage.
“We agree with NCAI that Tribes must have a seat at the table,” Tracey Moriarty, chief of the Office of Communications at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said to The Verge in an email. “We are always working to improve the consultation process to engage Tribes in a respectful way,” the email says.
The Department of the Interior did not immediately responded to a request for comment by The Verge. But the Biden administration has made commitments to consult tribes and respect Indigenous knowledge in forming policies. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, who is a member of the Pueblo of Laguna and is the first Native American to become a cabinet secretary, has similarly said that tribes should “have a seat at the table for every decision that impacts them and their communities.”
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