Tribes seek to cement FERC policy giving them veto power

By Jason Plautz | 03/04/2024 06:51 AM EST

American Indian tribes say they see renewed sovereignty in a policy giving them authority over projects on their land.

FERC headquarters.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission headquarters in Washington. Francis Chung/E&E News

American Indian tribes are weighing a petition that would prompt federal energy regulators to open a rulemaking to formalize a new policy that requires tribes to approve energy projects on their land.

In the rejection of a series of pumped hydropower projects at its February open meeting, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission detailed a new policy to not issue preliminary permits for projects proposed on tribal lands if the affected tribe is opposed.

That policy, FERC commissioners wrote, reverses a “general policy of granting permits even where issues were raised about potential project impacts without a distinction for projects on Tribal lands opposed by Tribes.” The announcement was tucked into the rejection of a series of preliminary permits for projects proposed for Navajo Nation land, which the tribe had opposed.


It also came after the Hopi Tribe — located in northeastern Arizona — passed a resolution calling on FERC to change its rules for preliminary permits. That resolution echoes the same policy FERC detailed. The tribe now hopes that it can prompt a formal rulemaking to enshrine it for years to come.