Legislation seeks to extend renewable energy tax credit to tribal governments

Noel Lyn Smith The Daily Times
The Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Two federal lawmakers are introducing legislation in hopes of leveling the playing field when it comes to developing renewable energy projects on tribal lands.

The bill, called the Tribal Tax Incentive for Renewable Energy Act, would amend a section of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to allow tribal governments to use existing federal renewable energy investment tax credits.

Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., and Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., explained their reasons for sponsoring the measure in a teleconference on Monday.

The change has the potential to help tribes create jobs within their reservation boundaries, Heinrich said.

He added that he is seeing large scale solar and wind projects developing on private and federal lands in the Southwest but these types of projects are not occurring on tribal lands.

"This levels that playing field and if we can move this forward, I think you'll see a lot more of that kind of development moving onto tribal land across the Southwest," he said.

A press release from Heinrich's office cited a report from the U.S. Department of Energy that stated that Indian Country comprises 2 percent of land in the country, which contains an estimated 5 percent of all renewable energy resources.

Grijalva said he would be introducing a companion bill in the House of Representatives.

He added that tribes have been waiting too long for this amendment and will remain at an economic disadvantage without it.

"It's long overdue," Grijalva said, adding that he has previously spoken to tribal officials about the proposal.

"The senator's bill addresses that huge disparity and I think that if you talk to any of those tribal leaders, they'll tell you they have a huge interest in it but have a barrier" to investment, Grijalva said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and nsmith@daily-times.com. Follow her @nsmithdt on Twitter.