Thursday, May 12, 2016
Today, U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said that—for the first time ever—the Senate has approved funding that he has long championed for a key tribal loan program. The funds, $9 million for 2017, would help create jobs, ensure access to reliable energy on tribal lands, and enable new energy infrastructure investments.
The funds, which now await consideration in the House of Representatives, are expected to leverage about $50 to $85 million for energy projects in Indian Country and were passed as part of the Senate's annual appropriations bill to fund the nation's energy and water development.
The Department of Energy's (DOE) Tribal Energy Loan Guarantee Program will help bring power to regions of Indian Country that need it most by providing loans and loan guarantees to tribes and tribal organizations to support electricity generation projects. The program—which was created more than a decade ago but has never received funding—would not only help generate reliable and resilient energy, but also support high-quality, good-paying jobs and promote economic growth in Indian Country.
"This is a big win for Indian Country," said Sen. Franken, a member of the Senate Energy and Indian Affairs Committees. "Developing tribal energy resources will help bring power to the most remote parts of tribal lands by improving access to reliable energy and it will provide much needed jobs. This measure will give a real boost to tribal economies and encourage smart investments in critical energy infrastructure. I am pleased that this important program passed the Senate, and I will continue working hard to see that it passes the House and is signed into law."
Sen. Franken has long been a strong supporter of energy investments in Indian Country and recently went to the Senate floor to highlight the importance of the program. By encouraging borrowers to cooperate with private entities—such as utility companies—the program will leverage private investment to meet local needs. DOE expects strong interest in the program from American Indian tribes. The DOE currently provides tribes with technical assistance for energy projects, but does not have any way to help tribes access much needed financing.