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New Report Highlights Clean Energy Opportunities for WA Tribes

March 24, 2010

SEATTLE - Native Americans, in the state of Washington and across the country, bear some of the highest costs related to climate change, according to a new report. At the same time, 95 million acres of tribal land across the nation offer great potential for new clean energy development. Steve Torbit directs the National Wildlife Federation's (NWF) Tribal Lands Conservation Program, which issued the report.

Torbit says biomass and wind projects seem to hold the most potential for Washington tribes, although changes in state and federal policy and some tax changes are needed, as well as increased access to capital, to allow them to develop those resources.

"It gives some economic development to the tribe; it could provide some job training that could improve their dire unemployment situation, and it can also help the American public as we look for non-fossil-fuel energy resources."

Monique LaChappa is Nation Chairwoman for the Campo Kumeyaay Nation, which developed the country's first tribal wind farm in California. LaChappa says her tribe is already working on starting a second, larger wind farm.

"But you have to remember, you also have to have everything that goes with starting a renewable energy project: transmission, the developers."

In addition to helping states reach their renewable energy goals, the report outlines how these projects also can help tribes meet their own, local needs. The study estimates 15 percent of Native American homes nationwide have no access to electricity.

Several organizations – NWF, the Native American Rights Fund, and the Intertribal Council On Utility Policy – collaborated on the report, "The New Energy Future in Indian Country." It can be viewed online at http://nwf.org.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - WA