On December 18, 2018, President Trump signed into law the Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act (“Act”). The Act is a bipartisan bill that was introduced by Senator John Hoeven from North Dakota. Hoeven is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. The new law preserves trust reform principles and mechanisms in the energy resource development context, and advances tribal authority and sovereignty.

The new law will overhaul how the federal Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of the Interior (“DOI”) go about managing their respective Indian energy portfolios. Energy tribes have recognized the economic potential of their resources and plan to continue to responsibly develop renewable and traditional energy resources. The centerpiece of the law is designed to more fully respect tribal sovereignty and decision-making and lighten the DOI’s review and approval of resource development on trust lands.

Under the law, tribes may negotiate and approve their own leases, business agreements, rights of way and other documents without the review and approval of the DOI by submitting a Tribal Energy Resource Agreement for the DOI’s approval. Overall, the Act comports with President Trump’s 2017 executive order directing federal agencies to review their regulations and revise them to encourage energy development on federal and Indian lands.