BREAKING: House Passes O’Halleran Bill to Electrify Indian Country

December 9, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today, the House of Representatives voted to pass H.R. 5541, the Tribal Power Act, bipartisan legislation introduced by Congressman Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01) that ensures tribal communities can access affordable, reliable energy sources.

The legislation is cosponsored by Congressman Markwayne Mullin (R-OK-02) and passed on voice vote.

“While nationwide electrification began in the 1930s, many Native American communities still lack basic access to electricity—as many as 15,000 families on the Navajo Nation alone,” said Rep. O’Halleran, following the voice vote. “Now more than ever before, we must ensure tribal communities have the federal support they need to build out electrification operations, update and expand new energy infrastructure, and are not left behind as our energy market evolves toward renewable energy sources. I was honored to see my bill pass today with broad, bipartisan support.”

The Tribal Power Act aids tribal energy development by:

  • reauthorizing the Department of Energy’s Indian Energy Education Planning and Management Assistance Program at $30 million annually from FY 2021-2025;
  • granting the Director of the Office of Indian Energy the authority to reduce the cost share threshold required for grants awarded under the program to 10% if a tribe meets established criteria for severe financial need; and
  • requiring the Department of Energy to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the availability and reliability of electricity for those residing in tribal communities or on tribal land.

In addition to these legislative initiatives, the Department of Energy is also required to identify barriers and provide recommendations to Congress to improve access to reliable electricity service on tribal lands. 

“Rural and tribal communities far too often struggle with outdated and inadequate infrastructure, and often stand to gain the most from innovative solutions and investment,” continued O’Halleran. “This year, as COVID-19 has hit tribes disproportionately hard, we must ensure that economic hardship is not a barrier to the electrification of Indian Country.”