Sally Jewell announces 700K in energy grants being awarded to nine American Indian tribes

PHOENIX - As part of the Obama administration's effort to bring renewable energy to Indian Country, U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced on Wednesday $700,000 in grants to tribes and approval of what would be the largest solar power plant on tribal land.

The grants will be awarded to nine federally recognized American Indian tribes and pay for efforts to build up the tribes' capacity for energy and mineral resource development, Jewell said.

Jewell made the announcement alongside federal and tribal officials at the Heard Museum in Phoenix.

"Today's announcement reflects the Obama administration's steadfast commitment to work with Indian Country leaders to promote strong, prosperous and resilient tribal economies and communities," Jewell said in a statement.

According to officials, the solar plant is the second utility-scale solar project approved for development. It will be on the Moapa River Indian Reservation, about 20 miles northeast of Las Vegas. The 200-megawatt project is expected to generate enough power for 60,000 homes and create up to 500 jobs at the peak of construction.

American Indian leaders have said federal and tribal politics and bureaucracy have made energy development difficult in Indian Country. They have urged the federal government to streamline permitting processes, expand leasing reform and create an Indian energy self-determination law.

Tribal lands make up about 5 percent of the land mass in the United States but contain as much as one-fifth of the nation's energy resources, experts say.

President Barack Obama also is helping tribes by addressing the impact of climate change while investing in job development, Jewell said.

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