O’Halleran-Mullin Tribal Power Act Passes out of Energy and Commerce Subcommittee

January 10, 2020
Press Release

O’Halleran speaks on urgent need for electrification of Indian Country

WASHINGTON—Monday, Congressman Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ-01) and Congressman Markwayne Mullin (R-OK-02) introduced H.R. 5541, the Tribal Power Act, bipartisan legislation to ensure tribal governments can access the federal resources and assistance they need to advance their energy development initiatives. Yesterday, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy voted to advance the bill to the full Committee for consideration.

O’Halleran’s bill would ensure tribal communities can access affordable, reliable energy sources by reauthorizing and increasing funding for the Department of Energy’s Indian Energy Education Planning and Management Assistance Program.

“While nationwide electrification began in the 1930s, many Native American communities in my district still lack basic access to electricity—as many as 15,000 families on the Navajo Nation alone,” said Rep. O’Halleran. “This legislation will aid tribal communities in building out electrification operations, as well as updating and expanding new energy infrastructure. I was pleased to see bipartisan support of this important bill in committee and look forward to voting in favor of this legislation on the House floor.”

“Too often Indian Country gets left behind in energy development,” said Rep. Mullin. “The Tribal Power Act will help tribes get the resources they need to become energy efficient and enhance their energy infrastructure. I am glad it passed out of the Energy Subcommittee yesterday and I look forward to working with my colleagues to get it across the finish line.”  

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;
  • expanding the program to include remote Alaskan tribes;
  • 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;
  • 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. 

“Last year, the Navajo Generating Station, a driving employer and economic force in my district, closed its doors for good,” continued O’Halleran. “In order to meet the demands of an evolving energy market shifting toward renewable energy sources, we must ensure this important program is fully funded so that tribes affected by closures like NGS can continue to thrive.”

WATCH O’Halleran speak in support of the legislation, here.

H.R. 5541 passed unanimously out of Subcommittee on a voice vote.