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Indian Nations Law Update - February 2011

February 10, 2011

Department of Energy Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Grant Announcements

The Department of Energy (DOE) announced the availability of up to $10 million through the Department's Tribal Energy Program to support the evaluation, development and deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects on tribal lands. The grants are available under thee funding opportunities. The first is entitled "First Steps Toward Developing Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency on Tribal Lands." The DOE will offer grants to tribes that seek to engage in strategic planning, energy options analysis, energy organization development, and human capacity building related to sustainable energy efficiency implementation and/or renewable energy development. Applications are due to the DOE on March 3, 2011.

"Energy Efficiency Development and Deployment in Indian Country" is the second grant opportunity. The DOE seeks applications from tribes, tribal energy resource development organizations, or tribal consortia for either a feasibility study to assess and determine the technical and economic feasibility of energy efficiency improvements to existing tribally owned buildings, or for installation of energy efficiency improvements to existing tribally owned buildings. Applications for this grant are due to the DOE by March 16, 2011.

DOE entitles the third grant opportunity "Renewable Energy Development and Deployment in Indian Country." This opportunity allows tribes, tribal energy resource development organizations, or tribal consortia to seek grants to fund feasibility studies to determine the technical and economic viability of a future renewable energy project, pre-construction activities for the deployment of renewable energy projects, or construction of renewable energy projects for power production. DOE will accept applications for this grant until March 31, 2011.

Godfrey & Kahn's Indian Nations and Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Practice Groups have the experience and proven capabilities to help your tribe develop its renewable energy and energy efficiency goals, seek funding to support those goals, and assist your tribe achieve the goals. Please contact Carl Artman (414.287.9624 or at Godfrey & Kahn if you need more information or further assistance related to these grants or your renewable energy plans.

Membership of House and Senate Indian Affairs Committees Finalized

Both houses of Congress have determined the members that will sit on the Indian-specific subcommittees in the 112th Congress. Don Young (R-AK) will chair the new Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs in the House Natural Resources Committee. He will be joined by fellow Republicans Jeff Denham (CA), Daniel Benishek (MI), Paul Gosar (AZ), Raúl Labrador (ID), Kristi Lynn Noem (SD) and Doc Hastings, ex officio (WA). Dan Boren will be the ranking minority member of the subcommittee. Democrats Dale Kildee (MI), Ben Ray Lujan (NM) and Colleen Hanabusa (HI) will join him. Chairman Daniel Akaka (D-HI) will lead the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. Senators Daniel Inouye (HI), Kent Conrad (ND), Tim Johnson (SD), Maria Cantwell (WA), Jon Tester (MT), Tom Udall (NM) and Al Franken (MN) will join Chairman Akaka to represent the majority. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) will be the Vice-Chairman of the Committee. Senators John McCain (AZ), Lisa Murkowski (AK), John Hoeven (ND), Mike Crapo (ID) and Mike Johanns (NE) will join Chairman Barrasso as fellow Republicans on the Committee.

Supreme Court Decides Not To Review Oneida Case After All

In October, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a petition to review the decision of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Oneida Indian Nation of New York v. Madison County, Oneida County, N.Y., 605 F.3d 149 (2d. Cir. 2010) in which the Court had held that tribal sovereign immunity barred a tax foreclosure suit by Madison County, New York. The Court had agreed to review "whether tribal sovereign immunity from suit, to the extent it should continue to be recognized, bars taxing authorities from foreclosing to collect lawfully imposed property taxes" and "whether the ancient Oneida reservation in New York was disestablished or diminished." On January 10, the Court announced that it would send the case back to the Second Circuit in light of a letter from the tribe advising the court that it had passed a tribal declaration and ordinance waiving "its sovereign immunity to enforcement of real property taxation through foreclosure by state, county and local governments within and throughout the United States." The court vacated the Second Circuit's previous judgment and remanded with instructions that the court "address, in the first instance, whether to revisit its ruling on sovereign immunity in light of this new factual development, and -- if necessary -- proceed to address other questions in the case consistent with its sovereign immunity ruling."

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