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Indian Nations Update - February 2010

February 15, 2010

CLE Conference: Tribal Energy Economics
Arizona State University Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law will host a CLE conference entitled Tribal Energy Economies: Investing in a Sustainable Future on March 25 - 26, 2010 in Tempe, AZ. This conference will bring together tribal leaders, financing and energy industry experts, attorneys and academics to chart courses for tribes to increase their leverage now and create sustainable energy economies in the future. It will address the legal, regulatory, developmental and financing opportunities associated with traditional, renewable, and alternative energy sources. The conference will examine the challenges of developing long-term energy economies, including the economic and cultural issues associated with large -scale development on tribal lands. Godfrey & Kahn shareholder John Clancy will speak on maximizing the value of tribal natural resources in the carbon markets of the future. Carl Artman is organizing the conference in conjunction with the College of Law's Economic Development In Indian Country program. Further information on the conference may be found at www.regonline.com/tribalenergy or you may contact Carl Artman at 414.287.9624 or cartman@gklaw.com.

Tribe Scores $2.6 Million Grant for Renewable Energy Facilities
The Forest County Potawatomi Community was recently selected by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to receive a $2.6 million competitive grant pursuant to the DOE Community Renewable Energy Deployment Grant program. The Tribe has been working to develop its own renewable, carbon-free or carbon-neutral energy and was selected by DOE as one of only five communities, and the only tribe, in the nation to receive an award under this competitive grant.

The Tribe plans to use its $2.6 million award to help develop several projects to generate renewable energy for the facilities on its reservation. These projects will significantly reduce the Tribe's use of fossil fuels and carbon footprint and move the Tribe closer to its goal of becoming energy independent. Based on initial estimates from the Tribe's grant application, the proposed innovations could reduce the Tribe's carbon profile by approximately 20,300 tons of carbon dioxide per year. The renewable energy projects to be installed at the Tribe's facilities may include:

  • A biomass tri-generation facility, which produces heating and cooling for tribal facilities as well as approximately 1.25 megawatts of electricity. This facility will also use waste heat to dry wood chips;
  • Dried woody biomass boiler heating systems installed at numerous on-reservation buildings;
  • A biogas digester system and 150 kilowatt (kW) generation system;
  • Three solar photovoltaic systems with dual axis tracking capabilities; and
  • A small wind farm that consists of three wind turbines capable of generating up to 100 kW each.

Godfrey & Kahn is proud to have assisted the Tribe with its grant application and its efforts to become energy independent using carbon-free and carbon-neutral renewable resources. For more information regarding renewable energy opportunities for tribes, contact Brian Pierson at 414.287.9456 or bpierson@gklaw.com.

Godfrey & Kahn to Present 21st Annual Labor and Employment Law Seminar
Godfrey & Kahn's Labor and Employment Law Team will present its annual seminar on the following dates at the following locations:

  • Tuesday, April 13: Madison (Monona Terrace)
  • Tuesday, April 20: Green Bay (Hotel Sierra)
  • Thursday, April 22: Milwaukee (Sheraton Brookfield)

The seminar will focus on practical approaches to preventing and managing employment law problems. It is further designed to provide employers with information concerning recent changes in labor and employment law and suggested strategies to deal with these changes. The seminar is designed to serve the needs of executives, in-house counsel, human resource professionals and front-line supervisors. We have applied for 3 recertification credit hours toward PHR, SPHR and GPHR recertification through the Human Resource Certification Institute (HRCI). For more information about certification or recertification, please visit HRCI at www.hrci.org. We have applied for approval by the Board of Bar Examiners for 3 hours of credit toward the Wisconsin mandatory CLE requirements.

To register, or for more information, contact Katelin Botsford 414.287.9269 or kbotsford@gklaw.com.

Supreme Court Decision Creates Election Campaign Opportunities For Tribes
Under federal campaign finance law and the laws in about half the states, corporations are prohibited from making campaign contributions or sponsoring independent expenditure communications (statements that expressly advocate for the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate). In some instances, these restrictions on corporations have been extended to tribes or used as a basis for imposing additional registration and reporting requirements on tribes.

In Citizens United v. FEC (No. 08-205, Jan. 21, 2010), the U.S. Supreme Court held that a prohibition on corporate sponsorship of independent expenditures is unconstitutional. And, the court made clear that any attempts to restrict or limit political speech by any speaker - individuals, corporations, labor organizations or tribes - would be highly disfavored.

As a result of the Citizens United decision, tribes may no longer be prohibited from financially supporting independent expenditure communications - directly or indirectly. Moreover, the decision did not address contributions to candidates. Accordingly, in some jurisdictions, tribes will maintain their ability to make direct contributions to candidates while corporations will continue to be prohibited from doing so.

Tribes should consider the effect of Citizens United on the campaign finance laws under which they operate. In many instances, tribes will be able to use the decision to change existing laws and create more opportunities to have its views heard in connection with elections. For more information contact Mike Wittenwyler of Godfrey & Kahn's Political Law Team at 608.284.2616 or mwittenwyler@gklaw.com.

House Approves Amendment to Indian Arts and Crafts Act
On January 20th the House approved H.R. 725, which would amend the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990, which requires that any products marketed as "Indian" must be produced by an Indian artisan or tribe. The amendment would permit enforcement of violations by any federal law enforcement officer, including BIA officers. Currently, only the FBI is authorized to investigate suspected violations of the Act. The Senate has already approved a version of the bill, S. 151, but slight differences will require reconciliation.


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