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Friday, March 31, 2006

Winona LaDuke-which energy path?

From Indian Country Today
LaDuke: Three Affiliated Tribes at a crossroads: Which energy path?
Posted: March 31, 2006
by: Winona LaDuke

Tex Hall is eager to bring a synfuels refinery and other tribal energy resources into the market. ''The tribe is concerned about delays ... We really want to work with our senators and kick-start the regulatory and funding process to get the new Indian energy programs under way,'' Hall explained at an early October meeting with the Crow and Fort Peck tribes. At the meeting, Hall proposed the northern tribes consider a strategic formal alliance on energy and economic development. ''Our tribes are rich in energy resources,'' he said.

Wes Martel, a former tribal council member of the Wind River reservation, echoed his sentiments. ''We're here to support Tex's tribal economic alliance,'' he said, adding that tribes can't depend on federal agencies.

At stake is a flagship project at Three Affiliated Tribes and, potentially, a large number of other projects in the region as tribes grapple with options from the fossil fuel or the renewable energy economy. The proposed $80 million Makoti synfuels oil refinery will be sited on the Fort Berthold Reservation, employing some 300 construction workers and providing 80 full time jobs. The tribe has approved a lease for this land, as well as 200 acres to oil companies. The draft environmental impact study was released just this past month.

Regionally, Bill Kitto, BIA superintendent at Fort Berthold, is lauding a minerals study reporting l to l.5 billion tons of coal on the reservation, with an estimated 560 tons of coal in the White Shield community alone. At the other end of the energy spectrum, Fort Berthold has some of the best wind energy potential of any location in the world, with an estimated 17,000 times more wind power available than can be used on the reservation.

Arguably one of the most powerful Indians in North America, Hall's past leadership at the National Congress of American Indians means that the Mandan/Hidatsa/Arikara tribal chairman's choice to focus most on a conventional fossil-fuel path on energy issues sends a message. It also illustrates the complex challenges of tribal governments, and worries many of his tribal members. complete perspective


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